Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 59, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 60 to 71, inclusive, answered orally.

Prison Committals

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

72 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to address the number of juveniles and young adults who spend prolonged periods of time on protection in St. Patrick’s Institution, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13858/12]

I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that 91 inmates were held on protection for their own safety out of a total population figure of 222 in St. Patrick's Institution on 5th March, 2012. Included in the overall number of 222 were 41 boys in the 16 and 17 years of age category who are accommodated in a different accommodation block from those over the age of 18. Of this category, 9 offenders were on protection.

Protection prisoners are those who are considered to be under threat or at risk in the general population. This may arise as a result of a request from the prisoner or after consideration by Prison management. The number of prisoners on protection is regarded by the Irish Prison Service as an indicator of the steps taken in individual prisons to ensure in so far as possible the safety of the offenders. The fact that prisoners seeking protection are immediately separated from the general prison population or from specific prisoners identified as presenting a threat demonstrates prison management's commitment to ensuring their safety and security.

It is at the committal stage that the majority of prisoners seek protection. External influences imported to the prison on committal can include gang rivalry, drug debts and perceived cooperation with the Gardaí etc. On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and, based on the information available, a decision is made as to where a particular prisoner should be accommodated. In some instances, prisoners are transferred to other establishments. However, the Deputy will appreciate that this provision is only applicable to prisoners over 18 years of age as other prisons cannot legally hold inmates aged 16 and 17 year olds.

All persons detained on protection in St Patrick's Institution get at minimum 1 hour of exercise per day and leave their cells for various other activities throughout the day. Prisoners on protection avail of recreation with others also on protection to allow them as much out of cell time as possible. All protection prisoner's cases are reviewed at regular intervals to assess if the prisoner still requires protection status and to ensure their safe and secure detention.

Garda Training

Brendan Smith

Question:

73 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the activities, if any, currently ongoing in the Garda College in Templemore, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13916/12]

The Garda College is the main training centre for An Garda Síochána. Initial training for all new recruits takes place there. In addition, the Chief Superintendent in charge of the College and the members of the team there, develop, coordinate and direct all training interventions up to the most senior ranks. While there is currently no recruitment for full time members in An Garda Síochána, the Garda College in Templemore still provides in house training for all members. I would like to reassure the House and all those connected with the Garda College that it will continue to provide a centre of excellence for training for the Garda Síochána.

As an example of the range of activities undertaken in the College, the following programmes are currently scheduled for the period March to May 2012:

Performance and Accountability Leadership Framework Training,

BSc in Police Leadership,

Sergeant Development Programmes,

Inspectors Development Programmes,

Forensic Collision Investigation Course,

Training for Introduction of New Rosters,

Promotion Examinations — Sergeants and Inspectors,

Garda Reserve Training,

UN Pre-deployment Training,

Inland Fisheries Training,

Competency Based Driving Course,

Motorcycle Training Course,

UN Driving Assessments,

Firearms Training.

EU Conventions

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

74 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which Cosc will receive observations from the relevant Government Departments and State agencies on the potential policy and legislative implications of the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13847/12]

As I have previously stated in my responses to Questions Nos. 485 and 521 of Tuesday, 14th February, 2012, and 543 of Tuesday 28th of February, 2012, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence is a detailed Convention with a very broad scope across a number of policy areas.

Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, an executive office within my Department, actively contributed to all stages of the drafting process in relation to the Convention. That process took place over a period of almost two years. I am informed that 18 Council of Europe member states have signed the Convention but it has not yet entered into force.

In view of the complexity and scope of the Convention, and before embarking on the process of formal circulation of a Memo for Government for approval to sign the Convention, Cosc circulated all relevant Departments and State Bodies seeking observations on the final text of the Convention and Explanatory Memorandum. The deadline for receipt of observations from the Department and Divisions was Friday 9 March 2012. However, observations are still outstanding from some offices. In addition to contacting all remaining offices, Cosc is currently examining the responses received to date and has begun consideration of issues which need to be addressed prior to the signature of the Convention. The matter will then be submitted for decision as to the Government position on the issue of signature.

Sexual Offences

Denis Naughten

Question:

75 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, further to Parliamentary Question No. 587 of 12 January 2011, the progress made to date on the provision of information to parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13477/12]

The Deputy's question concerns the disclosure, to parents, of information relating to persons on the sex offenders' register.

In exceptional circumstances, the provision of appropriate information to the public is already possible. This includes the disclosure of such information to parents. Currently, this is done on an administrative basis but, subject to Government approval, I intend to put these arrangements on a statutory footing.

Our primary objective has to be to minimise the risk posed to the public. The High Level Group which produced and published a discussion document on sex offenders was of the view that, if the Garda has reason to believe a particular high risk sex offender poses a real and immediate danger, they should be free to tell individuals who need to know. Disclosure in such circumstances is perfectly reasonable.

However, giving the general public unrestricted access to names and addresses on the sex offenders' register would be likely to be counter-productive. That kind of access would drive offenders underground and make it more difficult to monitor and supervise them. This was the universal view of those who responded to the discussion document and participated in the public forum on the management of sex offenders.

General access to the register would also raise issues concerning the rights of persons who have completed their sentences and pose no future threat to society.

My Department has been conducting a wide-ranging examination of the law on sexual offences. Arising from the review, l expect to seek Government approval for legislative proposals, including amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001 to provide a statutory basis for necessary disclosure, in the coming months.

Prison Visiting Committees

Brian Stanley

Question:

76 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the criteria he used to appoint members to prison visiting committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13846/12]

As previously stated, I have made 30 appointments to Prison Visiting Committees since 9 March, 2011 and I am still in the process of making further appointments. The current membership of the Visiting Committees now comprises a combination of old and new appointments. In determining appointments, consideration is given to a person's suitability, appropriate qualifications and a genuine interest in prison issues.

I am on record as stating my intention to strengthen the independent oversight of our prisons. Under new legislation to be prepared, I intend to make Visiting Committees more effective while they continue their role of visiting prisons, meeting with prisoners, and liaising on their behalf with prison authorities. A link will be established between the Visiting Committees and the Inspector of Prisons. As part of these plans, it is intended to expand the Inspector of Prison's role which I believe will greatly enhance his independent oversight of the prison system.

Under these proposed new arrangements, Visiting Committees will report regularly to the Inspector of Prisons on issues they may wish to bring to his attention. Any urgent or major issue may be reported to the Inspector at any time.

Proposed Legislation

Gerry Adams

Question:

77 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he intends to amend the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to introduce unilateral no-fault divorce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13851/12]

As the law stands, fault is not ascribed to either spouse in divorce proceedings.

The law on divorce is set out in the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996. Section 5 of the Act prescribes the conditions under which a court may grant a divorce. Those conditions are that the court must be satisfied that, at the date of the institution of the proceedings, the spouses have lived separately for an aggregate of four years out of the previous five, there must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation, and proper provision must be made for each of the spouses and any dependent member of the family.

These are the conditions prescribed in Article 41.3.2 of the Constitution.

Drugs in Prisons

Barry Cowen

Question:

78 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Justice and Equality how he intends to ensure that our prison system becomes a drug-free system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13895/12]

The Irish Prison Service has introduced a number of security initiatives which have significantly reduced the availability of contraband in the prisons. These initiatives include tighter control and monitoring of prison visits, airport style security screening of all staff and visitors coming into the prison, x-ray scanners to scan all coats and bags/briefcases, the establishment of the Canine Unit, increased random searches of prisoner accommodation and its' occupants and stricter searching of those committed to custody and of those returning to the prison after temporary release, court and after visits.

It is acknowledged that there is a high prevalence of drug use among prisoners. Dealing with this problem is, in my view, critical in terms of prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration. In this context, the Irish Prison Service continues to invest significant resources into dealing with the drugs problem, in terms of supply reduction, drug treatment, education and counselling. Drug rehabilitation programmes for prisoners involve a significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Prison Service and visiting statutory and non-statutory organisations. Prisoners who, on committal, are engaged in a methadone substitution programme in the community will, in the main, have their methadone substitution treatment continued while in custody. Methadone substitution treatment is available in 9 of the 14 prisons and places of detention (accommodating over 80% of the prison population).

While the two open centres, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey, and the Training Unit and Arbour Hill are drug free prisons, it is my intention to ensure that we will have drug free units in all our closed prisons. A new dedicated Drug Free Area will be operational in Mountjoy Prison by the end of this month. There are Drug Free Areas in both Wheatfield prison and St. Patrick's Institution. The Prison Service intends that by the end of 2012 all closed prisons will have dedicated Drug Free Areas which will cater for prisoners who are drug free, have illicit drug free status and/or are stable on methadone.

I wish to reassure the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service will continue to implement supply and reduction measures and work in collaboration with statutory stakeholders to enhance drug treatment services across the prison system.

Sexual Offences

Dara Calleary

Question:

79 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has advanced his plans to tag convicted sex offenders as he outlined prior to the 2011 general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13889/12]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce a series of post-imprisonment restraint orders for violent and sexual offenders to include electronic tagging and other restrictions, which may be imposed at the time of sentencing.

The Sex Offenders Act 2001 introduced the sex offenders' register, post release supervision orders for sex offenders and civil orders restricting sex offenders in certain ways.

My Department has been conducting a wide-ranging examination of the law on sexual offences and a review of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 formed an integral part of that examination. Arising from the review, I expect to seek Government approval for legislative proposals, including a number of amendments to the 2001 Act, in the coming months. Legislative proposals being considered include measures for the electronic monitoring of sex offenders in specific circumstances and changes with regard to civil sex offender orders to make it easier to apply to a court for such an order.

Rights of People with Disabilities

Mick Wallace

Question:

80 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the lack of consultation with local networks in advance of the removal of funding to People with Disabilities in Ireland; if he will provide a breakdown detailing where this funding has been reallocated to and for what purposes; his further views on whether funding to the local networks, rather than the head office, could be reinstated to allow them to continue their work at a local level in view of the fact that the Wexford network had a budget of only €15,000 in 2011 and was prepared to reduce this to €10,000 for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13964/12]

There was no individual engagement with the Networks during the value for money review, as the information provided by the CEO of PwDI in response to a request from Department Officials, raised many queries in relation to how the overall budget of PWDI was being spent. While I accept that the networks were actively engaged with people with disabilities, the overall spending profile was too heavily concentrated on overheads and administrative expenses. To engage individually with the Networks would not have changed this profile.

As part of a review, I propose to present new structures for engagement with the disability sector to ensure that any perceived gap created by the withdrawal of funding from PWDI can be addressed. I am also looking at whether a small amount of funding could be channelled to the active local Networks.

It is my wish to ensure that people with disabilities directly benefit from any money allocated to this sector. With this in mind, I am currently overseeing the finalisation of a major Value for Money and Policy Review of Disability Services in the Department of Health to ensure that existing funding allocated for people with disabilities is spent to best effect. I am also interested to hear what people with disabilities have to say on issues affecting them. I have recently set up and chair a new Implementation Group to develop and progress the National Disability Strategy. This new group held its inaugural meeting on 30 November. It includes representation from a number of disability stakeholder organisations, individuals with expertise in the Disability area including a former PWDI Board member and also a number of people with disabilities who will be able to bring their lived experience directly to bear on the very important work of this high level group.

I have just recently announced the establishment of a new Disability forum which will be convened by the National Disability Authority. This forum will be developed along the lines of the Social Inclusion forum and will provide a very useful model for capturing the views and experiences of people with disabilities as service users. Furthermore it will facilitate a better consultation process and clearly establish the perspective of the end user and compliment the work of the main established disability organisations.

I consider it very important that we clearly hear the voice of people with disabilities in developing any policies or services that impact on their lives. I intend to ensure that in the development of policy and the delivery of services, that the voice of people with disabilities themselves is heard by me and my officials, and I am in no doubt that it will further compliment the work and perspective of other disability organizations involved in the process.

Garda Complaints Procedures

Derek Keating

Question:

81 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, following the Supreme Court finding in favour of a person (details supplied) which was described by the Chief Justice as unique and of considerable importance, his plans to set up an investigation into the action of some gardaí; if he plans to introduce new legislation; his plans to refer this case to the Garda Ombudsman for investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13484/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have already commented publicly on these matters following the judgment of the Supreme Court in relation to Mr. Bailey's appeal against the order of the High Court that he be surrendered to France. As the Deputy will appreciate, while this case was before the Supreme Court, I could not, in any way, as Minister for Justice and Equality, intervene or make any comment in the matter.

As I have already stated, I understand that the issues raised in documentation which emerged from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and which was referred to in a number of the Supreme Court Judgements, formed the basis of a complaint made on behalf of Mr. Bailey to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. I am advised that the Ombudsman Commission has admitted the complaint and initiated an investigation. I am of the view that it is desirable that these matters be investigated in the public interest and that the Ombudsman Commission is the appropriate body to do so. As the Deputy will appreciate, given the investigation now underway, it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment on this matter.

I have also commented on the fact that this documentation only first emerged subsequent to the proceedings having been determined in the High Court and only shortly prior to the hearing of the Supreme Court appeal. The position remains that I am consulting with the Attorney General about this matter.

I will keep legislation in the area of extradition under review.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 71.

Family Reunification

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

83 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that under the MIPEX index, Ireland has the least favourable family reunification policy of any country in Europe or North America; if he intends for Ireland to opt into Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13864/12]

Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification falls within the scope of Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Ireland, like the UK, has not to date exercised its option to participate in the Directive. While the issue of Ireland's participation in is kept under review, there are no current plans to change the position.

As I indicated in my press release in early January which set out my key priorities for 2012, I intend over the course of this year to put in place guidelines for family reunification. Clarity is important in that respect and it is also necessary to get the right balance between the aspirations of those seeking family reunification and the sometimes competing demands of the wider society, not least at a time of major economic difficulty.

As regards the Migration Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) I note the ranking referred to by the Deputy. However, without evaluating the methodology used and the accuracy and completeness of the information compiled in respect of Ireland I am not in a position to comment on its significance or relevance. I should also add that the Immigration Service of my Department does not appear to have been consulted by the publishers of the study in question.

Prison Building Programme

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

84 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which the Irish Prison Service will present to him plans for the development of Cork Prison within the existing 2012 to 2016 justice capital budget; the date on which a final decision will be made on those plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13843/12]

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that plans are currently in train for the development of a new Cork prison on the car park of the existing facility. Planning for the project is at a preliminary stage and it is not possible, at this juncture, to give any definite commitment on a time-line for delivery. My Department has already given sanction to the Irish Prison Service to proceed with detailed planning for the new prison. The Irish Prison Service currently envisages the submission of their detailed proposals to me by the end of June 2012.

Garda Training

Seán Crowe

Question:

85 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 164 and 165 of 25 January 2012, the details of firearms training provided for gardaí; the number of gardaí who have undertaken this training during each of the past seven years; the number of gardaí licensed to hold firearms; the number of gardaí who have received training in total; the amount of money paid to firearms instructors for Garda training during each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13870/12]

The information which was sought by Deputy on the 25 January 2012 is only recently to hand.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the basic Firearms Courses delivered by the Firearms Training Unit are as follows:

Course

Basic Handgun course — One Week,

Basic Submachine gun course — One Week,

Refresher Live Fire — One day per member, twice a year,

Refresher Fats — One day per member per year.

Members are required to attend two live fire and one refresher FATS (Firearm and Tactical System) per year.

The number of gardaí licensed to hold firearms over the last seven years and thus who have undergone training is as follows:

Year

No of Authorised Firearms Holders

2005

3,633

2006

3,216

2007

3,379

2008

3,429

2009

3,540

2010

3,616

2011

3,616

Tasers were first introduced in 2007 and are only issued to members of the Emergency Response and Regional Support Units. In addition Garda Firearms Instructors are also trained in the use of Taser. For security and operational reasons it is not the practice to disclose the numbers attached to these Units. Each trained member must undergo refresher Taser training three times per year.

In relation to the amount of money paid to firearms instructors, I am informed that, in addition to their annual salary and normal allowances e.g. rent, uniform etc., the current allowances payable on an annual basis to Garda Firearms Instructors are shown below. Instructors may also claim overtime for any additional hours worked over the normal 8 hour tour of duty. In addition, travel and subsistence is paid if applicable. The total amount paid under these headings over the last ten years is not readily available and its calculation would require a disproportionate use of resources.

Instructor Allowance (Garda) €7,794.75,

Instructor Allowance (Sergeant) €7,794.75,

Instructor Allowance (Inspector) €8,506.30,

Instructor Allowance (Superintendent) €10,627.65.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael Colreavy

Question:

86 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has met with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance with regard to reviewing the justice capital budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13860/12]

In common with all other Departments, the capital budget for the Justice Vote Group covering the period 2012 to 2016 was published last November.

There was considerable engagement at Departmental and Government level in relation to the budget prior to its publication. While, unfortunately, the fiscal environment within which we now operate allows very little latitude to increase the overall capital budget it is a matter which will be kept under review in the context of evolving priorities at Departmental and Government level. I will engage with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as appropriate in relation to these matters.

In this context, I wish to inform the Deputy that arising from a recent Government decision, there has been an increase of €1 million in the Courts Service capital budget in 2012 which is reflected in the recent Revised Estimates Volume.

This additional funding is required to develop existing ICT systems to facilitate the implementation of measures arising from the Fines Act 2010, including the payment of fines by instalment.

Gender Recognition

Gerry Adams

Question:

87 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has met with the Department of Social Protection on the issue of introducing gender recognition legislation for transgender persons. [13852/12]

I meet regularly with my colleagues in Government both collectively and on issues of bilateral interest. My Department was represented on the Gender Recognition Advisory Group established in May 2010 to advise on the question of legislation to give legal recognition to the acquired gender of transgender persons. The development of proposals in this regard is a matter for the Department of Social Protection.

Garda Reserve

Michael Moynihan

Question:

88 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of members of the public that have joined the Garda Reserve since March 2011. [13910/12]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that on the 31 March 2011 there were 766 Reserve Gardaí, and as of the 29 February, 2012 the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Garda Reserve was 935.

The target strength of the Garda Reserve remains at 10% of the full time Force and I would like to assure the House that the Government are fully committed to the Garda Reserve and recruitment to it is ongoing. Members of the Garda Reserve make a valuable contribution to policing and are drawn from a variety of backgrounds, professions and include representatives of 26 other countries.

I would like to place on record my appreciation of the members of the reserve who give of their time on a voluntary basis and for their ongoing commitment to the Garda Síochána.

Irish Prison Service

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

89 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality how he intends to address the crisis of education provision within the Irish Prison Service; his plans regarding uptake of educational courses in prisons here considering the low national uptake of 35% and 14% for courses in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13482/12]

Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies including notably the VECs and Public Library Services. The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of 220 whole-time teacher equivalents. Literacy, numeracy and general basic education provision is the priority and broad programmes of education are made available which generally follow an adult education approach. The figures cited by the Deputy are for 2010. An average of 38% of the prison population attended classes in 2011 an increase of 3% on the previous year and Mountjoy had an average uptake of 17.2% an increase of 3.2% on the previous year.

Prisoners are encouraged to participate in education activities and waiting lists where they occur are generally for the more popular educational programmes. Where there is a waiting list for a particular course prisoners can engage with other courses until a place becomes available. Education should not be seen in isolation. It is part of a wider holistic approach and many prisoners who are not engaged in education are attending vocational and other programmes.

The Inspector of Prisons recommended in his 2010 Annual Report that an independent audit be commissioned by the Irish Prison Service examining the type of education being provided in prisons, the relevance of such education, the numbers being educated and the value for money being provided. The reports for each of the 14 Prison Education Centres are currently being finalised and will be sent to the Department of Education and Skills, the relevant VECs and the Inspector of Prisons for their consideration with a view to the early implementation of recommendations.

A significant expansion and development of vocational training programmes has taken place in recent years and there are now over 100 workshops in place in our prisons capable of catering for in excess of 800 prisoners each day. There was a significant increase in the number of prisoners who participated in accredited vocational training courses in 2011, when 1,219 prisoners attended such courses.

The Irish Prison Service provides a range of other rehabilitative programmes that include health care, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services.

I can advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service is in the process of drafting a new Strategic Plan 2012-2014 which will be presented to me, by the Director General, in the first week of April. The development of prisoner education will form a central part of this Strategy.

Garda Stations

Arthur Spring

Question:

90 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will assign a population to Tarbert, County Kerry, using the same criteria as those used to assign a population to Moyvane and Ballylongford, County Kerry, in the fact sheet for closures of rural Garda stations released by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13481/12]

Population figures for Moyvane and Ballylongford were based on information ascertained from the 2006 Census. As Tarbert Garda Station was not a station which was identified for closure in the policing plan for 2012, the question of assessing the population covered by that station did not arise. The population of the Tarbert area is available from the Central Statistics Office website atwww.cso.ie.

Residency Permits

Denis Naughten

Question:

91 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to recognise the residency of non-EEA nationals under the age of 16 years; if he is satisfied that the current situation is not open to legal challenge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13478/12]

I am not clear as to what the Deputy means by "plans to recognise the residency of non-EEA nationals under the age of 16 years". The question would suggest that the residency of the non-EEA nationals under the age of 16 years is not recognised at present. This is not the case. While non-EEA nationals under the age of 16 years of age are not required to register their residence in the State under the exemption provided for in section 9(6)(a) of the Immigration Act 2004, they are still required to have a permission to be in the State under section 5 of the Act of 2004. In the normal course, that permission would be derived from that of their parents. Other cases are dealt with as they arise. I would point out that the exemption from registration in the 2004 Act is not replicated in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010. It is my intention that once that legislation has been enacted, all non-EEA nationals will be required to register, irrespective of their age.

Garda Stations

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

92 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the significantly reduced opening hours of Garda stations on the north side of Dublin, including Howth and Malahide Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13480/12]

The Commissioner's Policing Plan for 2012, which I laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 5 December 2011, sets out the future opening hours of Malahide and Howth Garda Stations. These are to be reduced to 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., from the current 24-hour basis. This in turn will free up gardaí during these hours from indoor duties to outdoor operational duties. It is also important to remember that while the Garda stations in question will have reduced opening hours to the public, they will remain as functioning Garda stations on a 24-hour basis. A decision on the implementation date for the reduced hours has not been made.

With regard to the Dublin Metropolitan North Division, it must be noted that approximately 777 Gardaí are assigned to the Division of which 229 are assigned to the Coolock District and 183 are assigned to the Raheny District. Malahide Garda Station and Howth Garda Station form part of the Coolock and Raheny Districts respectively. These resources are augmented, when appropriate, by Gardaí from national units such as the Garda National Drug Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The priority will remain, that an effective and professional policing service is provided to every part of the community, both rural and urban.

Asylum Support Services

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

93 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will introduce guidelines to compel his Department to operate the direct provision and dispersal system in a fair and transparent way; if he will allow residents within this system a voice in decisions made about them in an objective and fair hearing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13855/12]

I do not accept the premise of the question that the direct provision system does not operate in a fair and transparent way. I believe that it does.

In order to meet its international obligations in the area of asylum, the Government has allocated significant resources over the years to our asylum determination structures, to reception arrangements and to the provision of services to asylum seekers. Ireland is not unique in this respect. All countries which take their responsibilities in this area seriously are faced with similar calls on their financial resources. The direct provision and dispersal policy is a key element of the State's immigration and asylum control system.

Direct provision is unique but, as a result of it, no asylum seeker has ever been left homeless. Asylum seekers receive nourishment on a par with, and in some cases superior to, that available to the general population. Asylum seekers receive a health service on the same basis as Irish citizens and it is, in many cases, far superior to what is available in their countries of origin. Children of asylum seekers are provided with primary and secondary education in the local community on the same basis as the children of Irish citizens.

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers and has provided over 50,000 accommodation placements since the establishment of direct provision in 1999. RIA fulfils its mandate by allocating accommodation to those asylum seekers who require it having regard to family profile, access to school places, health, social and community services and accommodation availability. Currently, RIA is providing accommodation for almost 5,300 persons in 38 centres throughout the State.

It is open to residents to query any decision made about them by RIA. A key decision made by RIA is where a person will be accommodated but it is open to residents to request a transfer to an alternative location. Each request is viewed on its own merits. Where transfers are requested for medical reasons, RIA has access to an independent medical referee who will make a recommendation on whether or not the transfer is necessary to deal with the person's particular medical requirements.

The revised RIA House Rules and Procedures set out the entitlements and obligations placed on centre management and on residents and, in the event that these aren't being met, a complaints procedures to be invoked by either party. The Rules also set out in detail how a resident can go about requesting a transfer as well as the types and standard of service that an asylum seeker should receive while residing in direct provision.

These House Rules have been translated into twelve languages and are provided to all asylum seekers on arrival at their accommodation centre. This document and all translated versions are published on-line on the RIA website.

The rights of residents are also safeguarded though other means. RIA staff regularly hold ‘clinics' in centres where residents can raise issues about management and service provision. Local support groups, other NGOs, non-RIA State providers, health professionals and so all have access to residents and issues of concern can be raised in that context too.

Human Trafficking

David Stanton

Question:

94 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has received a report from the Garda Commissioner on the issue of forced labour; if he is satisfied that current legislation, particularly the provisions of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, contains sufficient provisions to deal with forced labour; the number of allegations, prosecutions and convictions attained relating to forced labour each year respectively for the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13946/12]

At the request of my Department and with a view to establishing the exact nature of alleged abuses, the Garda Commissioner was asked to provide information in response to specific questions in relation to allegations of forced labour coming to the attention of An Garda Síochána. This has been received and officials in my Department have now completed an analysis of whether the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 is sufficient to cover all circumstances in which forced labour could occur, which I am considering.

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 (which came into effect on 7 June, 2008) criminalises the trafficking of persons for the purposes of labour exploitation (including forced labour), sexual exploitation and exploitation consisting of the removal of a person's organs. For the purposes of the Act, the term "trafficks" is broadly defined. For example, the commission of an offence does not require cross-border movement or illegal entry into the State. It includes recruitment, taking a person into one's custody, care or charge, and providing the person with accommodation or employment.

Latest available information available indicates that between 7 June 2008 and 31 December 2011, a number of cases of alleged human trafficking for labour exploitation have been investigated by An Garda Síochána: 19 cases in 2009, 19 cases in 2010 and 13 cases in 2011.

To date, no proceedings for the offence of human trafficking for labour exploitation have been commenced in this jurisdiction. Three investigation files having been submitted to the Law Officers. Directions for no prosecution have been received in two of these cases. Additional information has been sought and provided in respect of the third investigation file. The decision in such matters rests with the Law Officers.

I want, as far as is possible, to establish all of the facts in relation to alleged abuses in order that a comprehensive strategy to deal with issues arising can be put in place, and consideration of the analysis which has now been completed will assist in that regard.

Prisoner Complaints Procedures

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

95 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will amend the Prison Rules 2007 to introduce an independent prisoner complaints mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13861/12]

There are procedures within the Irish Prison Service for the investigation of complaints by prisoners. However, I have stated previously that I am not satisfied that the existing Prison Service procedures are sufficiently robust and independent of the local staff to meet best practice for the investigation of serious complaints. My intention is to bring forward amendments to the Prison Rules 2007 which will introduce an independent element to the investigation. I have asked the Inspector of Prisons to give consideration to this matter and to advise me as to the most appropriate approach to be taken in an Irish context so as to ensure compliance with best international practice. The Inspector's report is imminent and his views will be taken into account in relation to the framing of the amended Rules in this regard.

Citizenship Applications

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

96 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who have become naturalised citizens since November 2011; if he will detail the reason for the high fees of €950 for a citizenship certificate for those in certain categories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13862/12]

Since November 2011, I have made a decision on over 5,000 applications. I expect to make a final decision on a further 4,000 cases over the coming weeks.

The prescribed fees to be paid by applicants on the issue of a certificate of naturalisation were last increased by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Fees) Regulations 2008, which came into effect on 1 August 2008. The standard certification fee is €950 while a reduced fee of €200 applies in the case of an application made on behalf of a minor or in certain circumstances when the application is made by a widow, widower or surviving civil partner of an Irish citizen. In the case of refugees and stateless persons the fee is nil.

The increases in certification fees were in line with inflation for the period 1993 to 2008. While the fees are designed to reflect the effort and cost involved in processing the different categories of applicant, the certification fees do not recoup the full cost of processing the applications.

In November 2011, I signed into law Statutory Instrument No. 569 of 2011, which introduced an application fee of €175 for applications for a certificate of naturalisation. The application fee was introduced to contribute towards the costs of processing those applications that do not attract any certification fee and to reduce the proportion of invalid and ineligible applications being lodged. The Statutory Instrument also introduced a series of changes to the application forms, in particular to facilitate applicants who are the civil partners of Irish citizens.

As the Deputy will be aware I have introduced formal citizenship ceremonies at no extra cost to applicants. These have been very well received by all participants as the ceremonies provide a sense of occasion that serves to underscore the importance to both the State and the applicant of the granting of Irish citizenship.

Domestic Violence

Sandra McLellan

Question:

97 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he expects to receive recommendations from the Law Reform Commission on the law on domestic violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13868/12]

The Law Reform Commission'sThird Programme of Law Reform 2008-2014 provides for a general review of the law on domestic violence. I understand that the Commission has commenced its consultations and any recommendations it makes will inform the development by my Department of proposals for further legislative reform in this area.

The time taken for the completion and delivery of individual Law Reform Commission reports and recommendations is a matter for the Commission itself as an independent body under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975.

Asylum Support Services

Dessie Ellis

Question:

98 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of asylum-seeking minors currently residing in direct provision accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13850/12]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department provides accommodation to minors only when they are accompanied by their parents or guardians. As at end February 2012, there were just over 1,700 persons under the age of 18 being accommodated in the direct provision system with their families.

RIA does not provide accommodation for unaccompanied minors. This responsibility is borne by the Health Service Executive. Asylum seekers deemed to be unaccompanied minors by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) are referred to the HSE which has responsibility for their care under the Child Care Act, 1991 until they reach 18 years of age. The general policy of the HSE is to accommodate unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in children's residential homes and through the foster care system.

Dessie Ellis

Question:

99 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of accommodation centres that have contracts with the Reception and Integration Agency; the value and expiration date of each contract; the number of asylum seekers residing in each accommodation centre; the amount paid in total to each centre to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13849/12]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers while their application for protection is being processed. On 4 March 2012, there were almost 5,300 persons being accommodated in 38 centres throughout the State.

In fulfilling its general accommodation responsibilities, RIA does not lease or rent premises from commercial contractors. Rather, it ‘contracts-in' a comprehensive range of services and facilities, which include accommodation, housekeeping etc., for a fixed sum over the period of the contract. Although there are standard service obligations — food, accommodation, etc. — on each of the centres, theper diem rate paid in each case by RIA is based on an individually negotiated contract. The rates differ from one contract to another depending on the facilities available in the centres, the differing functions of some of the centres, the location of the centres, the length of the contracts and so on. Negotiations take place with a number of commercial entities on an ongoing basis and RIA endeavours to achieve the best value for money in respect of each contract. It is not in the interests of the taxpayer that details of current individual contracts are known to the public or to other parties who are, or may be in the future, engaged in negotiations with RIA. Therefore, details of current contract rates are not provided. The policy is that the updating of the table of contracts will take place only at the end of January each year in respect of all financial information up to the end of December two years previously, e.g. at the end of January, 2012 the records are updated to end of December 2009. This policy has been upheld by the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The Deputy may also wish to notethhttp://www.ria.gov.ie/at published on RIA’s website — www.ria.gov.ie — are its Annual Reports for the years 2007 to 2010 inclusive. These reports include details of spending for those years, showing total payments for contracts in respect of State owned, commercial and self catering centres; for transport costs; for utility costs in State owned centres; and for miscellaneous payments. The 2011 report is being compiled and will be published as soon as possible.

The details sought by the Deputy are being compiled separately and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy shortly.

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree to which he and his Department have monitored the activities of those involved in drug and people trafficking, prostitution, child prostitution, racketeering, protectionism, blackmail, witness interference and intimidation; the number of prosecutions taken; the number of reports received or compiled relating to such activity; his preferred options to deal with such issues in the short to medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13949/12]

The monitoring and investigation of the various criminal activities referred to by the Deputy is a matter in the first instance for An Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Policing Plan 2012 sets out the key actions in tackling organised crime for the year ahead with a focus on drug trafficking, e-crime, financial crime, and the targeting of organised gangs through:

Using intelligence and analysis to inform operations against organised crime groups,

Working in partnership with Customs and Revenue Officials and other national and international agencies,

Focusing on reducing e-crime using leading edge technology and through active engagement with the community and business stakeholders.

An Garda Síochána proactively targets groups and individuals engaged in organised criminal activities, including drug trafficking and the other activities referred to by the Deputy. A multi-agency law enforcement approach is utilised whereby specialist units from the National Support Service, such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, and the Garda Technical Bureau are used to combat serious crime.

I am particularly focused on supporting the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau in targeting the proceeds of crime. The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government includes a commitment to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in relation to the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime. In this regard an Expert Group has been established under the auspices of my Department to review the operation of the Proceeds of Crime legislation with a view to identifying possible improvements which would serve to enhance the powers of the Bureau. When that work concludes I will bring forward my proposals in the normal way.

The legislative framework underpinning the State's response to organised crime is also being kept under review with regard to the question of whether any further improvements could be made to render it more effective. In particular, I have requested my Department to undertake a specific review of the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 to see if its provisions can be strengthened. The views of the Garda Commissioner have been sought in relation to the operation of the Act to date.

Insofar as statistics are concerned, the Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide relevant crime statistics directly to the Deputy.

Prisoner Releases

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

101 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide details of the mechanisms developed in partnership between the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service, Cork Prison, and community-based services in order to identify community-based programmes which could act as alternatives to custody for suitable prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13844/12]

I can inform the Deputy that arising from the publication of the strategy entitled "Unlocking Community Alternatives — a Cork Approach" the Irish Prison Service in co-operation with the Probation Service, statutory and non-statutory community-based services are in the process of establishing a Cork based implementation team to ensure the strategy is progressed and to develop robust community based programmes which could act as alternatives to custody. As this process is at a very early stage of development it is not possible, at this time, to provide details to the Deputy of the mechanisms which may be established.

The Deputy may also wish to note that since October 2011 suitably assessed prisoners have been released from the prisons under a pilot Community Return initiative to complete community work for various voluntary/community groups as part of their resettlement programme. The Community Return scheme is being overseen by a steering group comprising representatives of the Department's Prison-Probation Policy Division, the Irish Prison Service and Probation Service. Community Return will provide increased opportunities for the integration of ex-prisoners in their communities. As well as the unpaid work element, individual prisoners' programmes will also incorporate other interventions to assist in reintegration and rehabilitation. (e.g. education, training, mentoring, treatment, counselling etc.

Prisoners released onto the new scheme will generally perform their unpaid work alongside those doing Community Service work arising from Court orders. In Dublin and Cork, this will be facilitated by the dedicated Community Service teams, elsewhere by the relevant local community team, and in all cases working closely and a co-ordinated way with prison-based colleagues. The Probation Service also utilises its Community Funded projects nationally to support its supervision and management of the risk/needs of offenders in the community.

Road Traffic Accidents

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

102 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the arrangements in place for citizens who have been bereaved through a fatal road collision to access critical investigative documents that relate to their loved ones’ tragic road deaths, in view of the recent significant increase in the cost of supplying these documents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13479/12]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that persons involved in road traffic collisions, their legal advisers or insurers or other interested parties may, on written request, be supplied with an abstract of the Garda report in respect of the collision, copies of statements of witnesses and sketches or maps of the scene. Fees are charged for these reports, to re-coup costs incurred in the preparation of same. The current fees were introduced in October 2011, to replace fees which had been in place since 2005. Fees charged for services provided by An Garda Síochána are kept under ongoing review.

Where criminal proceedings are being considered, abstracts are not supplied until the criminal proceedings are concluded and in the case of fatal traffic collisions until the inquest concerning the death has been completed by the Coroner.

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the growth in organised crime has been measured on an ongoing basis over the past ten years with particular reference to gangland killings, drugs-related territorial wars culminating in shootings and killings of and by persons known to the Garda; the extent to which current legislation is capable of combatting such crime notwithstanding the legislation already passed into law in this regard and mindful of the apparent ready access to firearms and the growing expectation that such trends are likely to continue with increasing frequency; if he has in mind any specific measures to detain such persons or otherwise to prevent this ongoing activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13948/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that organised crime, by its nature, is constantly evolving and diversifying in both its structures and activities. In addition, membership of organised crime gangs tends to be fluid and offences committed by members of criminal gangs may or may not be connected with an individual's membership of such gangs.

I am, of course, deeply concerned about the incidence of murders associated with organised crime activity and I deplore all such killings. All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by An Garda Síochána and will continue to be so. I can also assure the Deputy that all serious and organised crime activity is monitored on an ongoing basis by An Garda Síochána. An Garda Síochána undertakes a range of activities designed to disrupt and dismantle the operations of criminal organisations. This involves targeting serious criminals and organised criminal groups on a number of fronts, including through the use of focused intelligence led operations by specialist units such as the Organised Crime Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

In addition, An Garda Síochána continues to develop and implement strategies targeting criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methods to facilitate targeted operations to enable early intervention and prevention of organised crime. This approach by An Garda Síochána has succeeded in bringing to justice many of those involved in gangland activities.

Law enforcement efforts in this regard are underpinned by a comprehensive framework of criminal law measures. This framework includes the more recently enacted provisions of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 targeting organised crime, measures contained in the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 relating to evidence obtained by means of covert surveillance and the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 relating to the use of weapons.

While this legislative framework is being actively utilised to tackle organised crime, I have indicated to the House that I will keep under review the question of whether any further improvements could be made to the overall legislative framework in this area to render it more effective. Further to this, my Department is currently undertaking a specific review of the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 to see if its provisions can be strengthened.

Prison Accommodation

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

104 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of occasions on which prisoners were locked in their cells for extended periods because of staff shortages in each prison in the State during each of the past three years; the number of prisoners concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13857/12]

I can advise the Deputy that on one occasion, Saturday 25 June 2011, 70 remand prisoners in Castlerea prison were not unlocked for their morning recreation due to staff shortages in the prison that day. This lasted for a period of two and half hours. They were unlocked earlier that morning for breakfast and returned to their cells after this. There were no incidents during this period of lockdown.

Traveller Community

Sandra McLellan

Question:

105 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 432 of 22 November 2011 and 493 of 14 February 2012, the date on which he will put the question of giving ethnicity status to the Traveller community to the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13869/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 493 of 14 February 2012 wherein I stated that consideration is still ongoing and that I intend that the question will be before the Government for decision as soon as possible. The position is unchanged.

Departmental Properties

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

106 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of properties owned by his Department, their locations and the purposes for which they are currently used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13865/12]

I can advise the Deputy that the properties owned by my Department are set out in the following table:

Location of Property

Purpose

Moyross Enterprise CentreMoyross,Limerick.

Irish Youth Justice Service Community Project Premises

The Hostel,15 Bath Street,Waterford.

Leased to the St. Vincent de Paul

The former Cork HostelWestview House,17 Audley Place,Patrick’s Hill,Cork.

Currently occupied by Cork Young Persons Probation Team and Project

Ballinasloe Training WorkshopCanal House,Harbour Road,Ballinasloe,Co Galway.

Community based Organisation Property

Tivoli Training Centre24 Tivoli Terrace South,Dun Laoghaire,Co. Dublin.

Community based Organisation Property

Tuam Community Training WorkshopVicharschoraland,Tuam,Co. Galway.

Community based Organisation Property

Tower Programme,Cusack House,St. Marks Lane,Neilstown Road,Clondalkin,Dublin 22.

Community based Organisation Property

Ministerial Meetings

Brendan Smith

Question:

107 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the recent meetings he has attended on justice and law reform issues in Europe and in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13652/12]

As Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, I can inform the Deputy that I attend numerous meetings in Ireland and Europe in relation to a broad range of justice and law reform issues. I have regular meetings with different representative groups and organisations in which different facets of justice and the law are discussed. As the Deputy will appreciate, the subjects of these meetings can often be quite varied and complex.

As well as engaging with my Government colleagues on a daily basis, I also attend meetings of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in which justice and law reform issues are discussed. This Committee acts as a forum for Oireachtas members from all parties to have a meaningful input into key legislation and policy areas which have real significance.

In terms of European meetings, I can inform the Deputy that since becoming Minister I have attended nine out of ten meetings of the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) with my European counterparts (the tenth meeting which was scheduled at short notice was attended by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch). The most recent of these meetings took place in Brussels on Thursday 8 March 2012.

Paramilitary Groups

Micheál Martin

Question:

108 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether the threat from paramilitary groups has eased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13655/12]

I know the House will share my condemnation of all paramilitary groups and their activities. These gangs of criminal terrorists have no support in the wider community, North and South, for either their criminal activities or their use of violence to achieve their aims.

Since early 2009 the threat level in Northern Ireland from these groups has been classified as severe. This is the shared view of both Governments based on the assessment of An Garda Síochána and the PSNI. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson MP, also confirmed this recently to the UK Parliament. The threat faced on this island from these subversives is a shared one and I can assure the House that the Gardaí continue to cooperate closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland in actively pursuing them.

These groups have particularly targeted the security forces in Northern Ireland, as the murders of PSNI Constables, Ronan Kerr and Stephen Carroll, and the murder of two British soldiers, Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey, at Massarene Barracks attest. The House will be aware that there have also been a number of other attempted murders and bomb attacks, and that these deplorable activities continue.

Operational police co-operation is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI and their respective forces. Both police chiefs have repeatedly emphasised the close nature and the high quality of the ongoing co-operation between their forces. This seamless co-operation has been instrumental in disrupting the paramilitaries, preventing attacks, combating criminality and saving lives.

Combating the subversive threat has always been an absolute priority for the Garda authorities and it remains so. I can assure the Deputy, and the House, that the Government is committed to maintaining the current high level of co-operation between the Gardaí and the PSNI.

I meet regularly with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, and with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, and there is also a close and ongoing working relationship between our officials. We will continue, in co-operation with the authorities in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, to spare no effort to ensure that those criminal terrorists who seek to subvert the democratic will of the people will face the full rigours of the law.

Corporate Governance

Seamus Kirk

Question:

109 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the plan by the EU to introduce a quota system for women on corporate boards; if he agrees with its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13657/12]

In March 2011, the EU Commission Vice-President with responsibility for Justice and Fundamental Rights called on all publicly listed companies in the EU to take voluntary steps to increase women's participation on corporate boards to 30 per cent by 2015 and to 40 per cent by 2020. The European average was then 12 per cent. All publicly listed companies in Europe were also invited to sign up to the "Women on the Board Pledge for Europe" to commit to reaching these voluntary targets. Progress in both regards was to be monitored after a year with a view to the introduction of legislation if necessary.

A report published by the European Commission last week has shown that the call for voluntary targets has produced only a slight improvement on last year's figures at 13.7 per cent, which equates with women now accounting for one in seven board members across Europe's top firms. The figures for Ireland are lower with women accounting for just nine per cent of board members of the largest publicly listed companies (an increase of just 1 percentage point in the year).

In response to the publication of the report, the European Commission has announced a public consultation process to inform the Commission's decision on future actions to take. The target group of this consultation are Member States, business or industry organisations, individual companies, civil society organisations with an interest in gender and/or social issues, trade unions, equality bodies, and other organisations or individuals. The closing date for the consultation is 28 May 2012.

There is considerable evidence to suggest that more gender balanced decision-making is better decision-making. A Working Group under the aegis of my Department is finalising a study on the role of women in all levels of decision-making. I look forward to considering both its findings and those of the European Commission before determining the best way forward in an Irish context.

Northern Ireland Issues

Micheál Martin

Question:

110 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, in view of the fact that he has responsibility for policy on Northern Ireland, if there has been any developments in relation to the disappeared in Northern Ireland; if this was discussed at recent meetings in Dublin or London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13817/12]

Micheál Martin

Question:

449 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there have been any developments in relation to the disappeared in Northern Ireland; if this issue was discussed at recent meetings in Dublin or London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12197/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 449 together.

The House will be aware that over the course of the conflict in Northern Ireland a number of people were abducted and murdered by paramilitary groups, and then buried in secret locations. They have become known as "the disappeared".

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains was established by the Irish and British Governments in 1999 as one of the actions taken in the context of the Peace Process to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation. The purpose of the Commission is to facilitate the location of the remains of the Disappeared in order that they may be returned to their families. These families have suffered a very particular cruelty in not only having to bear the tragedy of murder, but having been denied for so long information regarding the burial places of their loved ones.

The Commission, with the support of the two Governments, has worked tirelessly over the years and I pay tribute to the Commissioners, Mr. Frank Murray and Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, and to their investigation team, for their sterling work in this difficult task. The remains of nine of the 16 persons on the Commission's list have been recovered. Regrettably, there are still seven others who have not been located, despite the Commission's efforts. The Commission's current work programme based on the information about the possible location of one of the victims will result in some further excavation works later this spring.

On the 25 November 2011, together with Northern Ireland Office Minister of State, Hugo Swire MP, I met with the Commission and with family members of the Disappeared. I assured them of the two Governments continuing support for the Commission and for doing whatever is possible to locate the remains of those still missing. The Commission also had a very useful meeting with the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on 16 February 2012 at which they were able to update members of the Committee on their work to date.

The Commissioners have emphasised to me that their work is driven by information. All information provided to the Commission will be treated as strictly confidential and everyone can be assured that such information can only be used to locate and identify the remains. It cannot be given to other agencies or used for prosecutions.

I know the House will join me in calling on anybody who has any information that could help to locate those still missing to give that information to the Commission without delay. The Commission has in place a confidential freephone number and PO box address through which information can be passed to it. Information about the Commission and how to contact it are available on the Commission's website —www.iclvr.ie.

I would emphasise to the House that the Commission's sole purpose is humanitarian. All the families want is to give their loved ones a decent burial, to have a place to grieve and, in some measure at least, to have closure. The Government remains committed to that aim and I call on all others to help bring it about.

Constitutional Convention

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

111 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Taoiseach how he plans to ensure that voices representing the interests of children will be represented on the constitutional convention; and if he will ensure there are representative voices advocating the interests of children included in its composition. [13635/12]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

112 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Taoiseach if he will increase the scope of the constitutional convention to an examination of the fundamental rights provisions in Articles 40 to 45 of the Constitution. [13636/12]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

113 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Taoiseach if he will commit to ensuring that matters pertaining to the interests and rights of children will be included in the scope of the constitutional convention, notwithstanding the consideration that a separate referendum on the rights of the child has been promised. [13637/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

114 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if, in the context of the constitutional convention or otherwise, he will bring forward legal and or constitutional changes to provide for the abolition of ground rent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13936/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

119 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will include in the tasks of the constitutional convention the removal of the constitutional impediments to the abolition of ground rent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13937/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 to 114, inclusive, and 119 together.

The Government's proposals for the Constitutional Convention, including its composition and the topics it will consider, have been made public onwww.merrionstreet.ie. We propose that the topics to be considered by the Convention should be those outlined in the Programme for Government. The Programme makes it clear that, in addition to the items listed, the Convention is free to consider “other relevant Constitutional amendments that may be recommended by it”. It is the Government’s view, however, that the Convention should deal first with the topics listed in the Programme.

The Government has stated that matters on which there is already a commitment to hold a referendum, including Children's Rights, will not be within the scope of the Convention. It will be a matter for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to organise an appropriate consultation process in relation to the referendum on Children's Rights and I understand that she is doing this.

With regard to the composition of the Convention, we propose that it should consist of 100 members, including a chairperson. 66 members would be ordinary citizens. The remaining 33 would be made up of Oireachtas members and one parliamentarian from each of the political parties in Northern Ireland which accept an invitation to be represented. The Government is conscious that a number of organisations, representing various interests, have signalled a desire to be members of the Convention. However, as indicated above, the Convention is intended to be a forum mainly for ordinary citizens. Of course, the Convention can invite such organisations to make a presentation when matters in which they have a particular interest are being examined. They will of course also be able to make written submissions on any topic.

I recently met representatives of the Opposition parties and the Dáil Technical Group to consult them on the Government's proposals for the Constitutional Convention. They undertook to revert to me with their views. A further meeting is envisaged when all their views have been received.

Appointments to State Boards

Shane Ross

Question:

115 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a list of all appointments to State boards made by him, including any appointments to the position of chairperson, shown separately; if the vacancies on the boards were publicly advertised; who out of any appointments made applied through the publically advertised process; and the prospective nominees that went before the Oireachtas committee for questioning. [13496/12]

Since coming into office on 9 March 2011, I have made appointments to the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) only, as set out in the table beneath. These appointments were made following careful consideration of the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise relevant to the functions of the Council.

Some of the appointments were made on the basis of nominations from business and employer interests, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, farming and agricultural interests, the community and voluntary sector and the environmental sector. It would not be appropriate to advertise these positions as they are nominated in a representative capacity. I may also appoint up to six public servants of whom at least one shall represent the Taoiseach and one shall represent the Minister for Finance. Historically, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson posts are filled from my Department at Secretary General and Assistant Secretary level. These appointments represent relevant Departments to ensure the Council's work is integrated with Government policy-making and would not be suitable for public advertisement.

Finally, a number of independents were appointed in June and July last year. The independent nominations to NESC were not advertised, as I was satisfied with the quality of nominees already compiled in my Department which are mainly from the academic sector. However, it may be appropriate to advertise the positions in the future and this can be considered as part of the strategic review of NESC currently being conducted by my Department.

No remuneration is paid for membership of the NESC.

Name

Organisation

Date ofAppointment

Mr. Martin Fraser, Chairperson of NESC

Secretary General, Department of the Taoiseach

August 2011

Mr. John Shaw, Deputy Chairperson of NESC

Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach

January 2012

Prof. Edgar Morgenroth

Associate Research Professor, Economic and Social Research Institute

June 2011

Prof. John McHale

Economist, National University of Ireland, Galway

June 2011

Prof. Mary Daly

Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast

June 2011

Prof. Anna Davis

Department of Geography, Trinity College, Dublin

June 2011

Prof. Seán Ó Riain

Department of Sociology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

June 2011

Dr. Michael O’Sullivan

Head of UK Research and Global Asset Allocation, Credit Suisse, London

June 2011

Ms Mary Walsh

Chartered Accountant

June 2011

Dr. Michelle Morris

Senior Lecturer, School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin.

July 2011

Mr. Shay Cody

IMPACT

September 2011

Mr. John Murphy

Secretary General, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

November 2011

Mr. Seán Ó Foghlú

Secretary General, Department of Education and Skills

February 2012

Mr. John Moran

Secretary General, Department of Finance

March 2012

Gerald Nash

Question:

116 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Taoiseach if he will provide details in relation to the number and names of all semi-State companies and statutory agencies under the remit of his Department; if he will provide a list of all members of the board of such organisations for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; if he will provide a list of all expenses associated with membership of these boards on an individual basis for the relevant years; if he will provide information relating to the profession or occupation of all such members of the relevant State companies and statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13512/12]

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is the only State Agency under the aegis of my Department. The NESDO was established under the NESDO Act 2006 and is the body corporate for the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

Membership of the NESDO and the NESC for the years 2007-2011 are provided in the following tabular statements. In the case of the NESC, the organisations which nominated the members are shown rather than their occupations, since that is the basis upon which they were appointed. All expenses shown in the tabular statements are in respect of travel and subsistence which is paid in accordance with the relevant Department of Finance circulars.

MEMBERSHIP OF THE BOARD OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OFFICE

1 January 2007 to 31 March 2010

Name

Occupation

Expenses paid

Dermot McCarthy

Secretary General, Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

Mary Doyle

Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

Maureen Gaffney

Chairperson, National Economic and Social Forum

Nil

Peter Cassells

Chairperson, National Centre for Partnership and Performance

Nil

Philip Kelly

Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

MEMBERSHIP OF THE BOARD OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OFFICE

1 April 2010 to 31 December 2011

Name

Occupation

Expenses paid

Dermot McCarthy (Retired in July 2011 and replaced by Martin Fraser in August 2011)

Secretary General, Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

Philip Kelly (Term concluded in June 2011)

Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

MEMBERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL

2007-2010

Name

Organisation

Expenses Paid

Chairperson: Dermot McCarthy

Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

Deputy Chairperson Mary Doyle (to May, 2010)

Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

Business and Employer Organisation Nominees

Turlough O’Sullivan (replaced by Tony Donohoe in 2010)

IBEC

Nil

John Dunne

Chambers of Commerce Ireland

Nil

Liam Kelleher (replaced by Tom Parlon in 2008)

Construction Industry Federation

Nil

Aileen O’Donoghue (replaced by Siobhan Masterson in 2008)

IBEC

Nil

Danny McCoy

IBEC

Nil

Trade Union Nominees

David Begg

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Nil

Sally-Anne Kinahan

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Nil

Jack O’Connor

SIPTU

Nil

Manus O’Riordan

SIPTU

Nil

Peter McLoone

IMPACT

Nil

Agricultural and Farming Organisation Nominees

Eddie Punch

Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers’ Association

Nil

Seamus O’Donohoe

Irish Co-operative Organisation Society

Nil

Ciaran Dolan

Irish Creamery Milk Supplies Association

€437.87 (2008)€437.85 (2009)€2,226.08 (2010)

Michael Berkery (replaced by Pat Smith in 2009)

Irish Farmers’ Association

Nil

Colm Markey (replaced by Edmond Connolly in 2009)

Macra na Feirme

Nil

Community and Voluntary Nominees

Seán Healy

Social Justice Ireland

Nil

John Dolan

Disability Federation of Ireland

Nil

Brid O’Brien

Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed

Nil

Camille Loftus (replaced by Orla O’Connor in 2009)

National Women’s Council

Nil

Seamus Boland

Irish Rural Link

€694.55 (2007)€398.85 (2008)€613.99 (2009)€1,280.66 (2010)

Independent Nominees

Elizabeth Meehan

Queen’s University Belfast

€660.73 (2007))€934.21 (2008))€3,004.33 (2009))€1,628.31 (2010)

Seán Barrett

Trinity College Dublin

Nil

Peter Clinch (resigned in 2008)

Independent member

Nil

Oisin Coughlan

Friends of the Earth

Nil

Con Lucey (retired in June 2009)

Independent Member

Nil

Government Department Nominees

Brigid McManus

Department of Education and Science

Nil

Seán Gorman

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation

Nil

Geraldine Tallon

Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Nil

David Doyle (replaced by Kevin Cardiff in 2010)

Department of Finance

Nil

Niamh O’Donoghue

Department of Social Protection

Nil

MEMBERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL

2010-2011

Name

Organisation

Expenses Paid

Chairperson Dermot McCarthy (Replaced by Martin Fraser in August 2011)

Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

Deputy Chairperson Mary Doyle (to May 2010)

Department of the Taoiseach

Nil

Business and Employer Organisation Nominees

Danny McCoy

Irish Business and Employers Confederation

Nil

Tony Donohoe

Irish Business and Employers Confederation

Nil

Tom Parlon

Construction Industry Federation

Nil

Ian Talbot

Chambers Ireland

Nil

Trade Union Nominees

David Begg

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Nil

Sally-Anne Kinahan

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Nil

Peter McLoone (replaced by Shay Cody in September 2011)

IMPACT

Nil

Manus O’Riordan

SIPTU

Nil

Agricultural and Farming Organisation Nominees

Edmund Connolly

Macra na Feirme

Nil

Pat Smith

Irish Farmers Association

Nil

Seamus O’Donohoe

Irish Co-operative Organisation Society

Nil

Frank Allen

ICMSA

Nil

Community and Voluntary Nominees

Seán Healy

Social Justice Ireland

Nil

Caroline Fahey

St. Vincent de Paul

Nil

James Dorley

National Youth Council of Ireland

Nil

Brid O’Brien

Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed

Nil

Environmental Nominees

Oisin Coughlan

Friends of the Earth

Nil

Karin Dubsky

Coast Watch

Nil

Siobhan Egan

Birdwatch Ireland

Nil

Michael Ewing

Irish Environmental Network

Nil

Independent Nominees

Edgar Morgenroth

ESRI

Nil

John McHale

National University of Ireland, Galway

€381.40 (2011)

Mary Daly

Queens University Belfast

€248.84 (2011)

Anna Davis

Trinity College Dublin

Nil

Seán Ó Riain

National University of Ireland Maynooth

Nil

Michael O’Sullivan

Credit Swisse (Paris)

€1,035.13 (2011)

Mary Walsh

Chartered Accountant

Nil

Michelle Norris

University College Dublin

Nil

Government Department Nominees

Kevin Cardiff

Department of Finance

Nil

Seán Gorman (replaced by John Murphy in November 2011)

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Nil

Brigid McManus

Department of Education and Skills

Nil

Geraldine Tallon

Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government

Nil

Departmental Bodies

Gerry Adams

Question:

117 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the current members of the International Financial Services Centre clearing house group; if they come from Departments, State agencies, the private sector or other areas; and the methodology for identifying persons to serve on the group. [13556/12]

My Department has a coordinating role in support of development of the international financial services industry in Ireland since its inception in 1987. The Department operates a forum for this purpose through the IFSC ClearingHouse Group, and through a series of specialised Working Groups in the areas of Banking and Treasury, Insurance, Funds, Pension Funds and Asset Management.

The IFSC Clearing House Group (CHG) identifies and considers issues of major concern to the long-term development of the international financial services industry in Ireland, including the strategic development of new business areas and opportunities, the progress of relevant legislation, both domestic and European, consideration of regulatory issues, the provision of relevant industry skills and the appropriate marketing of the industry. Membership of the Clearing House Group includes senior public sector and industry representatives together with the Chairs of the respective Working Groups and is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach. The Working Groups are chaired by industry representatives. The duration of the membership of the CHG and the Working Groups is approximately three years.

Industry members of the Clearing House Group are appointed by an agreed nominating process which is coordinated between my Department and Financial Services Ireland (FSI), which is a sector organisation within IBEC. The industry members are nominated by FSI through this process which aims to ensure that all sectors of the international financial services industry are represented. The Chair of the Dublin International Insurance and Management Association (DIMA) and the Chief Executive of the Irish Stock Exchange are also members of the Group.

In addition, the Chairpersons of the IFSC Working Groups all serve as members of the Clearing House Group for the duration of their tenure as chairs of the particular Groups.

The following Appendix 1 lists the names and sectors of those who are CHG members.

Names and Sectors of those who are members of the IFSC Clearing House Group

Public Sector

Mr. Martin Fraser, Department of the Taoiseach (Chair)

Mr. Michael Sludds, Department of the Taoiseach (Secretary)

Ms Ann Nolan, Department of Finance

Mr. Barry O'Leary, IDA Ireland

Ms Breda Power, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Mr. Eamonn O'Dea, Revenue Commissioners

Mr. Gary Tobin, Department of Finance

Mr. Jim Byrne, Revenue Commissioners

Mr. John Moran, Department of Finance

Mr. John Murphy, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Ms Julie Sinnamon, Enterprise Ireland

Mr. Kieran Donoghue, IDA Ireland

Mr. Matthew Elderfield, Central Bank

Mr. Patrick Brady, Central Bank

Industry Members nominated by Financial Services Ireland (FSI)

Mr. Brendan Bruen, Financial Services Ireland

Mr. Brian Daly, KPMG

Mr. David Fagan, Legal and General

Mr. Fergus Murphy, Financial Services Ireland

Mr. Gary Palmer, IFIA

Mr. Padraig Rushe, Bank of Ireland

Mr. Pat Farrell, IBF

Mr. Peter Keegan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Mr. Robert Richardson, Pioneer Investments

Mr. Tom Young, BNY Mellon

Mr. Tony Golden, Citi

Mr. Willie Slattery, State Street

Chairs of IFSC Working Groups

Mr. David Guest, Chair of IFSC Banking and Treasury Working Group

Mr. John Feely, Attain, Chair of IFSC Pension Funds Working Group

Mr. Pat Wall, PWC, Chair of IFSC Asset Management Working Group

Mr. Paul McGowan, Chair of IFSC Funds Working Group

Mr. Tim Hennessy, Axis Capital, Chair of IFSC Insurance Working Group

Irish Stock Exchange

Ms Deirdre Somers, Irish Stock Exchange

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

118 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which since 1 January 2009 appointed a person to a post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto accounting officer who was within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13606/12]

No appointments of the nature described in the question were made by the National Economic and Social Development Office, which is the only agency under the aegis of my Department.

Question No. 119 answered with Question No. 111.

Public Service Staff

Pat Breen

Question:

120 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the number of public servants from County Clare who retired as part of the Croke Park early retirement scheme from positions in his Department or from State bodies under the aegis of his Department. [14208/12]

No staff from County Clare retired under the scheme referred to from my Department or the National Economic and Social Development Office, which is the only agency under the aegis of my Department.

Official Engagements

Brendan Griffin

Question:

121 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will extend an invitation to foreign dignitaries (details supplied) to visit Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13497/12]

The historic State visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland last year was a symbol of the modern, deep and friendly relationship between our two countries. We would hope that future high-level visits will serve to follow up on the momentum created by the Queen's visit and to reinforce the close ties between Britain and Ireland. President Higgins was in London last month and I note that Princess Anne visited Dublin and Kildare at the weekend. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would likewise be very welcome to visit Ireland.

Cross-Border Projects

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

122 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he supports a PEACE IV programme. [13578/12]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

123 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether any PEACE IV will continue to be a separate fund distinct from the territorial co-operation funds of Britain and Ireland. [13579/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 123 together.

Successive PEACE programmes have made an important contribution to the social and economic well-being of the people of Northern Ireland and the border regions. The programmes have contributed towards the reinforcement of progress towards a peaceful and stable society in Northern Ireland, as well as promoting reconciliation between the communities there. More work remains to be done in this regard, and therefore the Government strongly supports a PEACE IV programme and has already had preliminary contact with the British Government on how to manage this initiative.

There is also widespread support in Northern Ireland for a PEACE IV programme. The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister have indicated their positive view in relation to PEACE IV.

The European Commission in Brussels considers PEACE to be a flagship programme which demonstrates the European Union's significant role in supporting peace and stability in Northern Ireland. PEACE III runs until 2013, and the relevant budgetary discussions are now underway in Brussels to negotiate a new Multi-annual Financial Framework. Those negotiations are however still at an early stage.

Human Rights Issues

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

124 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, in view of his forthcoming visit to China, if he will raise a number of issues of human rights abuses, in particular that of Ms Fang Yang, whose passport was confiscated twice and who cannot return to Ireland to finish her studies in Dún Laoghaire as she is under police surveillance in China; if he will urge the Chinese Government to end the persecution of Falun Gong which has been ongoing for more than 12 years and which has included the torturing, organ harvesting and killing of Falun Gong worshippers; if he intends to urge the Chinese Government to bring those responsible for such persecution to justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13932/12]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

125 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will bring to the Chinese Government’s attention Ireland’s position against the repression of spiritual and religious groups in China and the ongoing oppression of the Chinese people’s rights to free speech and freedom to practise their chosen religion; if he will urge the Chinese Government to implement and reform the judicial system in order for due process of law and fair trials for its people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13933/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 125 together.

The Government is concerned about the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Freedom of religious belief and expression is an issue which is discussed regularly with the Chinese authorities during both bilateral meetings and at European Union level.

At these meetings, the Government re-iterates the great importance Ireland attaches to human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law and urges the Chinese authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Through the formal framework of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, which was established in 1995, the EU continues to share with China its experience in the field of human rights protection and promotion, and to urge China to take clear steps to improve the human rights situation. Treatment of Falun Gong practitioners is also raised by the European Union as part of regular political dialogue as well as during specific Human Rights Dialogue with China.

Human rights are a constant and important issue of dialogue and discussion with the Chinese Authorities, at both national and European Union level. In the course of the recent visit of the H.E. Xi Jinping the Vice-President of the People's Republic of China, the issue of human rights was raised at a variety of levels, including directly between the Taoiseach, myself and Vice President Xi. I will be visiting China in 2012 and officials on both sides are working closely on identifying dates and these have not yet been established.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

126 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide details in relation to the number and names of all semi-State companies and statutory agencies under the remit of his Department; if he will provide a list of all members of the board of such organisations for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; if he will provide a list of all expenses associated with membership of these boards on an individual basis for the relevant years; if he will provide information relating to the profession or occupation of all such members of the relevant State companies and statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13506/12]

There are no semi-State companies or statutory agencies under the aegis of my Department.

International Agreements

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

127 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, in view of Ireland’s proud history of being a driving force behind the non-proliferation treaty, the role he can play in assisting the implementation of the Middle East resolution agreed at the NPT review and extension conference in 1995; and the assistance he can provide to the Government of Finland, which will chair the 2012 conference later this year. [13573/12]

The Government has always attached great importance to the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on a WMD free zone in the Middle East. The benefit of establishing such a zone in a region which faces so many political and security challenges is obvious. The Resolution was agreed in 1995 as part of a wider agreement which also included the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in this respect its implementation is seen by many as important in terms of the longer term viability of the NPT, which is the cornerstone of the global nuclear disarmament framework. I am proud that, following 15 years without any significant progress on implementing the 1995 Resolution, Ireland brokered the 2010 agreement which set out a number of practical steps towards its implementation, including the convening of a Conference "to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction," which we expect to be held later this year.

Ireland fully supports the appointment of Finland as host for the Conference and of Finnish Under Secretary of State Jaako Laajava as Conference facilitator. Officials from my Department have had a number of contacts with Ambassador Laajava and his team since his appointment last October. On November 10th, officials met with him in Dublin and gave him a detailed briefing on our experience as Chair of the process which led to the 2010 agreement. We indicated to him that we remain at his disposal, ready to assist however we can. The Deputy can be assured that Ireland will continue to participate actively in the process towards a WMD free zone in the Middle East, and that we will assist Ambassador Laajava and his team however possible in preparation for, and throughout, the Conference in Finland.

Our hope is that the Conference will be attended by all key players, including Israel and Iran, and that it will represent a successful next step in the process towards a viable WMD free zone in the Middle East.

Diplomatic Representation

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

128 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether it was prudent to close the embassy in Tehran, Iran; the effect this closure has had in undermining the excellent work carried out by Ireland in the establishment of the Middle East resolution agreed at the non-proliferation treaty review and extension conference in 1995; if the closure of the Irish embassy in Tehran undermines Ireland’s ongoing work in seeking full implementation of that resolution at the upcoming NPT conference in Finland later this year. [13574/12]

As I have previously reported to this House, the decision to close the Embassy in Tehran was taken in light of the current pressures on public finances. It followed a careful review of our overseas diplomatic missions by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which paid particular attention to the economic return from bilateral missions. The Government remains committed to maintaining and developing our relations with Iran and intends to seek the appointment of a non-resident Ambassador. Full diplomatic relations with Iran will continue.

The Deputy can be assured that the decision to close the Tehran Embassy will not impact in any way upon Ireland's ongoing work in support of implementing the Middle East Resolution agreed at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference in 1995. My Department will continue its very active role in all related negotiations, both at the Conference in Finland, which we see as a very important step in the process towards a viable WMD free zone in the Middle East, and also throughout the upcoming NPT review cycle, which will assess progress in implementing all follow-on actions agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

The upcoming NPT review cycle will involve three Preparatory Committee meetings — at Vienna (2012), Geneva (2013) and New York (2014) — followed by a Review Conference in New York in 2015. Throughout this process, officials from Headquarters and the local Mission will participate and actively advance the Government's position on all aspects of the NPT and its implementation, including the 1995 Resolution. We will also attend the Conference in Finland and support the facilitator, Ambassador Jaako Laajava of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, in his important work. My officials have already met with Ambassador Laajava to assist him in his preparations for the Conference.

Official Engagements

Patrick Nulty

Question:

129 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, following his meeting with Irish LGBT groups in New York in March 2011, if he will refrain from sending a representative to attend the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ New York St. Patrick’s Day parade until the ban on participation of Irish LGBT groups is lifted; if he will instead send a representative to one of the inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parades that take place in New York, for example in Queens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13693/12]

On two occasions last year, I held very useful meetings in New York with representatives from the Irish American Lesbian and Gay community about a range of issues of concern to them. I agreed to stay in touch regarding these matters as well as the ongoing effort to resolve issues surrounding participation by the Gay and Lesbian community in the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade. As a result of my meetings with them, the Minister of State for responsibility for equality, Ms Kathleen Lynch T.D. represented the Government this year at the "St. Pat's for All" parade and associated events. This parade is an inclusive event that welcomes the participation of LGBT groups and all those who wish to celebrate Ireland and it took place in Queens, New York on Sunday 4th March. This is the first time that there has been ministerial attendance at this event and sends a clear signal of our support for the inclusive nature of the event.

As in previous years, the Government will be represented at the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick's Day parade as a gesture of acknowledgement and support for the many Irish-American groups who participate in, attend and support the parade. My Department, through the Consulate General in New York, will also continue to liaise with Irish-American LGBT groups in their efforts to resolve the issue of their participation in this parade.

Public Service Staff

Pat Breen

Question:

130 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the number of public servants from County Clare who retired as part of the Croke Park early retirement scheme from positions in his Department or from State bodies under the aegis of his Department. [14202/12]

My Department does not have an office in County Clare. There are no State agencies under the aegis of my Department.

Tax Code

Timmy Dooley

Question:

131 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance his policy on the reduced rate of VAT for the tourism sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14079/12]

The Finance (No. 2) Act 2011 provided for a second reduced VAT rate, of 9%, on a temporary basis in respect of certain tourism-related services and goods for the period 1 July 2011 to 31 December 2013. In reducing the VAT burden on activities related to the tourism industry, the introduction of the 9% VAT rate is aimed at contributing towards boosting tourism and the creation of additional jobs in that sector. With this in mind, the VAT reduction will be kept under review and evaluated before the end of 2012 in order to determine its effectiveness in aiding the industry. If it is shown that the VAT reduction has not had the desired effect in aiding the industry then the measure is open to being reformed or abolished.

Banks Recapitalisation

Micheál Martin

Question:

132 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if there were discussions on European banks releasing new credit to businesses across Europe in order to encourage growth; the details that were discussed, particularly in the context of the further half billion euro being injected as part of the three year programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13492/12]

I am not aware of any specific new proposals at EU level in terms of measures under discussion for European banks to provide credit for new business across Europe, although measures to support the small and medium enterprise sector are regularly discussed. In relation to the matter of the half billion euro injection for a three year period, I assume that the Deputy is referring to the recent ECB initiatives in terms of long term refinancing operations. As the Deputy is aware the ECB is independent and neither I nor my officials would have been party to this initiative. That said, as has been recently commented on both here and abroad this is a welcome initiative.

Finally, in relation to measures that this Government has taken in terms of enhancing the provision of credit for businesses here, as you know there have been a variety of initiatives launched and I continue to expect that the financial institutions will meet their obligations in this regard.

Micheál Martin

Question:

133 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline all of the meetings at which he has asked the European Union for assistance in dealing with Ireland’s banking bailout; if he will provide an update on the progress made on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13487/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Government is committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State. The Troika have agreed to engage in a process with Irish Officials to produce a common paper which will consider all options for restructuring the notes in terms of the source of funding, the duration of the notes, the interest rate etc. In tandem with this technical review of the Promissory Notes In tandem with this review the European authorities have opened a discussion on how best the Irish banking system and the Irish State can benefit from having a final restructuring of some of the elements of the banking sector. The overall purpose would be to ensure that banks in which the State has a major investment would enhance in value, making it possible further down the line to sell the State shareholdings in those banks the proceeds of which would, in turn, reduce the overall debt situation. A number of approaches are under consideration but it must be emphasized that nothing is agreed at this point.

The Government has commenced discussions at political level to garner support for an approach which is more beneficial to the Irish State.

As already indicated I have met with Commissioner Rehn and Mario Draghi President of the European Central Bank, in this regard. The matter has also been discussed at every opportunity and at various levels in the European arena. The Deputy will appreciate that much of the discussions, at this point, are on an informal basis. As soon as the technical discussions are concluded a more formal and structured approach will be adapted to ensure political support.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

134 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details in relation to the number and names of all semi-State companies and statutory agencies under the remit of his Department; if he will provide a list of all members of the board of such organisations for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; if he will provide a list of all expenses associated with membership of these boards on an individual basis for the relevant years; if he will provide information relating to the profession or occupation of all such members of the relevant State companies and statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13505/12]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to semi-state companies and statutory agencies under the remit of my Department is contained in the following tables:

National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) Advisory Committee From 01/01/2007

Name

Profession or Occupation

Term

Mr Kevin Cardiff

Secretary General Department of Finance

From 1 February 2010 to 3 February 2012

Mr Shane Doyle

Chief Strategy Officer, Liberty Global

From 1 May 2007 to 3 September 2011

Mr David Doyle

Secretary General Department of Finance

Term ended 31 January 2010

Ms Tytti Noras

Legal Counsellor, Ministry of Finance Finland

Appointed 2005Re-appointed 1 August 2010

Mr Gerold W Brandt

Financial Consultant

31 December 2009

Mr John F Daly

Chairman IMC Limited

Term ended 31 December 2008

Mr David Byrne

Former EU Commissioner and former Attorney General

From 1 January 2008

Mr Hugh Cooney

Consultant with KPMG and Company Director

From 1 January 2008

Mr Brendan Mc Donagh

From 1 September 2010

National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) Board Members from 01/01/2007

Name

Profession or Occupation

Term

Mr Fred Barry

Chief Executive National Roads Authority

Mr Liam Berney

Industrial Officer, Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Ms Ann Fitzgerald

Chief Executive Officer, National Consumer Agency

Mr Stewart Harrington

Director, Killeen Properties Limited

Mr Tony Jones

Business Consultant

Mr Peter McManamon

Chairman, Ceva Inc

Mr John Corrigan

Chief Executive, NTMA: Ex-officio member

From 4 December 2009

Mr Brian Murphy

Chief Executive, NDFA: Ex-officio member

From 12 January 2009

Mr Michael Somers

Chief Executive, NTMA: Ex-officio member

Term ended 3 December 2009

Mr Adrian Kearns

Chief Executive, NDFA: Ex-officio member

From 1 March 2007 to 31 December 2008

Ms Anne Counihan

Chief Executive, NDFA: Ex-officio member

Term ended 9 February 2007

State Claims Agency Policy Committee Members from 1 January 2007

Name

Profession or Occupation

Term

Mr Noel Whelan

Vice President and Dean Emeritus, University of Limerick

Mr Tony Delany

Former Director of Claims at Norwich Union/Hibernian Insurance

From 10 March 2010

Mr Chris Fitzgerald

Principal Officer, Department of Health

From 22 October 2010

Mr Christopher Moore

Brigadier General, Defence Forces (retired)

From 10 March 2010

Ms Niamh Moran

Solicitor, Carmody Moran, Solicitors

From 10 March 2010

Ms Deirdre Hanlon

Principal Officer, Department of Finance

From 3 May 2007 to 14 October 2011

Ms Anne Marie Hayes

Project Accountant and Health and Safety Authority Board Member

Term ended 2 July 2011

Mr Brendan Phelan

Princi Principal Officer, Department of Health

Term ended 22 September 2010

Ms Margaret Lane

Administration Manager, Bord Gáis

Term ended November 2009

Mr John Dunne

Insurance Broker, JF Dunne Insurances

Term ended 2007

Ms Ann Nolan

Principal Officer, Department of Finance.

Term ended 2007

Mr Michael Grace

Associate Director, AIB Investment Managers

Term ended 2007

National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) Commission Members From 1 January 2007

Name

Profession or Occupation

Term

Mr Paul Carty

Financial Consultant and Former Managing Partner, Deloitte and Touche, Ireland

Mr John A. Canning Jr

Chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners LLC

Dr Brian Hillery

Former Chairman of Independent News and Media plc and former Chairman, Unicredit Bank Ireland plc

Mr Maurice Keane

Company Director and retired Group Chief Executive, Bank of Ireland

From 5 February 2007

Mr Knut N. Kjaer

Former President of Risk Metrics Group and former Chief Executive, Norges Bank Investment Management

From 2 April 2010

Prof. Frances Ruane

Director of Economics and Social Research Institute (ESRI)

From 1 July 2009

Mr John Corrigan

Chief Executive, NTMA. Ex-officio member

From 4 December 2009

Mr Michael Somers

Chief Executive NTMA. Ex-officio member

Term ended 3 December 2009

Ms Brid Horan

Executive Director, Customer Supply and Group Services, ESB

Term ended July 2009

Mr Donald C. Roth

Managing Partner, Emerging Markets Partnership, Washington D.C.

Term ended 1 April 2010

National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) Board Members from 22 December 2009

Name

Profession or Occupation

Term

Mr Frank Daly

Former Chairman, Revenue Commissioners

From 22 December 2009

Mr Michael Connolly

Banking Consultant, and former Senior Bank of Ireland official

From 22 December 2009 to 26 November 2011

Mr John Corrigan

Chief Executive, NTMA: Ex-officio member

From 22 December 2009

Ms Eilish Finan

Consultant in Financial Services and Property, formerly of KPMG and former CFO/Director of AIG Investments

From 22 December 2009

Mr Brendan McDonagh

Chief Executive Officer, NAMA: Ex-officio member

From 22 December 2009

Mr Brian McEnery

Corporate Rescue and Insolvency Practitioner with Horwath Bastow Charlton

From 22 December 2010

Mr Steven Seelig

Principal and CEO of Financial Stability Associates, formerly of IMF

From 26 May 2010

Mr William Soffe

Former County Manager, Fingal County Council

From 22 December 2009

Mr Peter Stewart

Financial Services Consultant

From 22 December 2009 to 11 October 2011

Payment of expenses to members of the above boards and committees is an operational matter for the boards concerned. Aggregate expenses paid to members for the years 2007 to 2011 are set out below. Payment to NTMA Advisory Committee, NPRF Commission members and NAMA Board members primarily reflect travel and accommodation expenses incurred by non-Irish based board members.

Aggregate expenses paid to members for years 2007 to 2011

Board

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

NTMA Advisory Committee

34,002

32,106

42,716

25,318

36,558

NDFA Board

SCA Policy Committee

1,426

1,426

1,470

270

NPRF Commission

14,962

4,534

10,000

15,554

836

NAMA Board

36,246

49,216

Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

Name

Profession or Occupation

Term

Mr John McHale (Chair)

Established Professor and Head of Economics, National University of Ireland, Galway

Appointed 07 July 2011

Mr Sebastian Barnes

Senior economist, Economics Department, OECD and head of the EU desk.

Appointed 07 July 2011

Mr Alan Barrett

Research Professor, Trinity College Dublin

Appointed 07 July 2011

Mr Donal Donovan

Adjunct Professor at the University of Limerick. Visiting Lecturer at Trinity College Dublin

Appointed 07 July 2011

Ms Róisín O’Sullivan

Associate Professor, Economics Department, Smith College, Massachusetts

Appointed 07 July 2011

The Board Members were paid €14,461 in travel and subsistence expenses in 2011

Irish Bank Reconciliation Corporation

The Irish Bank Resolution Company (Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited) has provided the following details in relation to the period January 2009 to 2011.

Board Members 2009 to 2011

Name

Term

Mr William McAteer

Appointed 03 June 1992 — resigned 07 January 2009

Mr Michael Jacob

Appointed 25 April 88- resigned 19 January 2009

Mr Edmund Sullivan

Appointed 12 November 2001 — resigned 19 January 2009

Mr Gerard McGann

Appointed 20 January 2004 —resigned 19 January 2009

Ms Ann Heraty

Appointed 27 April 2006 — resigned 19 January 2009

Mr Noel Harwerth

Appointed 02 February 2007 — resigned 19 January 2009

Mr Patrick Whelan

Appointed 06 July 2006 — resigned 19 February 2009

Mr Declan Quilligan

Appointed 26 June 2006 — resigned 07 September 2009

Mr Frank Daly

Appointed 18 December 2008 — resigned 22 December 2009

Mr Donal O Connor

Appointed 26 June 2008 — resigned 14 June 2010

Mr Alan Dukes

Appointed 18 December 2008 — appointed Chairman on 14 June 2010

Mr Maurice Keane

Appointed 21 January 2009

Mr Mike Aynsley

Appointed 07 September 2009

Mr Noel Cawley

Appointed 27 May 2010

Mr Aidan Eames

Appointed 27 May 2010

Mr Gary Kennedy

Appointed 27 May 2010

Mr Oliver Ellingham

Appointed 14 October 2011

Mr Roger McGreal

Appointed 15 November 2011

Biographical details for the current board members can be found on the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) website using the following link:

http://www.ibrc.ie/About_us/Who_we_are/Board_of_Directors/

The IBRC is currently examining its records in relation to expenses paid to board members since 2009 and as soon as this information is available it will be forwarded to the Deputy.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Michael McGrath

Question:

135 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners have identified a pattern of compliance issues with regard to leased licensed premises, or public houses, in recent times; if they are carrying out significant enforcement activity in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13528/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they may only facilitate the issue of a Publican's licence where the appropriate certificate has been issued by a District or Circuit Court, and certain conditions, as set down in legislation, are met. These include:

Valid Original Court Certificate,

Valid Tax Clearance Certificate,

Short Certificate of Incorporation (if Licensee is a company),

Certificate of Registration of Business Name.

The person/entity to whom the Court has granted the certificate for a premises is clearly named on the Court Certificate. However, the Court Certificate contains no details of the conditions under which they hold title or beneficial use/access to the premises i.e. whether landlord or tenant. Accordingly, in conducting compliance activity in respect of renewal of publicans' licences, on the basis that the possession of a valid Tax Clearance Certificate is a prerequisite, the Revenue Commissioners do not normally distinguish between leased or owned premises.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners, that their strategy in relation to the broad range of compliance activities which they carry out is to focus on the areas of greatest risk. This includes, from time to time, focusing on particular sectors, including publicans. Revenue's priority is to select cases for intervention based on various risk indicators and other information, which could include intelligence from a range of sources and third party information.

Tax Collection

Robert Troy

Question:

136 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the circumstances in which he anticipates the Revenue Commissioners will use the new powers to be conferred on them under Section 111 of the Finance Bill 2012; his views on the impact of such a measure on small businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13529/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that this provision is being introduced to address those businesses that deliberately build up significant arrears of tax with no intention whatsoever of ever clearing their tax debts. The types of persons in question are what are commonly known as phoenix companies and similar type operators. They typically run up large Revenue tax liabilities with no intention of ever paying them and when the Revenue Commissioners initiate enforcement proceedings against them they close the business and start up again in a different form.

In many cases the taxes in question involve fiduciary taxes, such as PAYE and USC that they withhold from employees and VAT withheld from consumers and other businesses. Instead of paying these fiduciary taxes over to Revenue for the benefit of the Exchequer as they are obliged to do, they use them for their own benefit — in the process giving themselves a competitive advantage over legitimate businesses.

This provision will not have any impact on legitimate businesses, large or small that take reasonable care in relation to their tax compliance. In most cases, there are legitimate reasons why businesses may fall into tax arrears. Revenue does and will continue to enter into arrangements with those businesses that come to them with genuine problems and proposals to pay arrears of tax with a view to achieving long term tax compliance. This provision is not aimed at those businesses.

The Revenue Commissioners have undertaken only to use this provision after publishing guidelines on how it will be applied.

National Asset Management Agency

Gerry Adams

Question:

137 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance, in view of the IMF’s claim that the National Asset Management Agency had a €3.1 billion target for the disposal of assets in 2011, if he will advise if NAMA has targets for the disposal of assets in 2012 and 2013; and if any such annual targets can be quantified. [13535/12]

The IMF has indicated a specific sales target for NAMA of €3.1bn in its March 2012 staff report. NAMA does not have specific annual targets for approved sales for each year up to 2013. However, NAMA advises that it has developed expected levels of cumulative approved sales as broad internal guidelines to ensure that it can reach its target of repaying €7.5bn of debt by 2013. These cumulative levels of expected approved sales are set at €7bn for end-2012 and at €9bn for end-2013. Levels of approved sales at year end will differ from actual sales at year end as in the property market there is typically a lag of about six months between sales approval and sales completion.

Gerry Adams

Question:

138 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm if the National Asset Management Agency’s target of repaying 25% of its debts by the end of 2013 has become a term of the bailout agreement with the troika; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13536/12]

The NAMA Board initially set itself the target of repaying €7.5bn of its debt by end 2013. By agreement, the May 2011 Memorandum of Understanding with the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund included a target for the disposal of assets equating to approximately €7.5bn in cash by end 2013. As a consequence this target is now a commitment under the agreement with the Troika. The Troika seeks progress reports on the asset disposal target at the quarterly meetings with NAMA.

Proposed Legislation

Gerry Adams

Question:

139 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance, with regard to the proposed betting (amendment) Bill, if the legislation will cover betting exchanges, specifically in relation to layers who lay bets in an identical fashion to traditional bookmakers but without a betting licence; if the new legislation will allow tax to be collected on moneys earned by these layers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13537/12]

The proposed betting (Amendment) Bill, which is being drafted at present, will amend the 1931 Betting Act to inter alia establish the regulatory framework for the licensing of remote bookmakers and betting exchanges, including measures to enforce the regulatory framework. The drafting of the Bill, which is fairly complex, is well advanced. The Finance Act 2011 contained measures to allow for the extension of the 1% betting duty to remote bookmakers and for a 15% gross profit tax to betting exchanges. The taxation provisions are subject to a Ministerial Commencement order which can only be commenced when the Betting (Amendment) Bill is enacted. In relation to the taxation treatment of betting exchanges, it is the operator of the betting exchange that will be liable to the gross profit tax which is also the position in the UK.

State Banking Sector

Joe McHugh

Question:

140 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the annual cost to the State since 2002 of exchanges at the Central Bank of old Irish currency with euro; the monthly exchanges since 2008; if he has any plans for reform or review of this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13551/12]

The cost to the Central Bank of exchanging Irish pound notes and coins for euro notes and coins for each year since 2004 are set out below. Information for the years 2002 and 2003 is not available. The Central Bank keeps the provision of this service under review. The Central Bank has advised that 60% of the cost relates to direct costs including staff costs. The remaining 40% covers indirect costs including premises, IT support and HR services.

Year

Cost

2004

€296,691

2005

€329,963

2006

€362,655

2007

€388,977

2008

€338,618

2009

€365,926

2010

€282,062

2011

€265,413

The number of Irish pound notes and coins exchanged for each month for the years 2008 to 2011 is set out below:

No. of coins

No. of notes

2008

January

574,831

12,520

February

539,055

11,472

March

331,503

12,683

April

937,877

13,075

May

171,860

11,802

June

296,537

9,219

July

427,275

11,846

August

183,127

20.227

September

299,281

10,773

October

172,847

11,256

November

279,878

18,630

December

386,976

8,301

Total

4,601,047

151,804

2009

January

269,505

11,043

February

620,803

8,973

March

326,055

13,191

April

313,339

15,563

May

182,615

11,858

June

367,019

8,701

July

561,194

13,035

August

356,776

17,334

September

211,879

15,917

October

302,343

12,977

November

294,989

12,193

December

284,654

7,099

Total

4,091,171

147,884

2010

January

141,633

6,140

February

221,435

9,452

March

447,151

12,462

April

247,429

13,747

May

109,269

10,191

June

351,542

5,087

July

344,358

15,486

August

463,054

10,096

September

116,665

26,962

October

225,126

14,861

November

336,684

11,865

December

60,901

6,907

Total

3,065,247

143,256

2011

January

346,459

12,618

February

270,471

10,623

March

126,047

7,179

April

228,255

7,522

May

168,249

8,292

June

168,241

8,205

July

137,607

7,510

August

133,319

4,730

September

111,671

8,740

October

128,922

5,050

November

121,219

5,740

December

77,939

5,410

Total

2,018,399

91,619

National Asset Management Agency

Gerry Adams

Question:

141 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 94 of 22 February 2012, the fees that are paid to companies who provide property valuations for the National Assets Management Agency; the fees for this service that were paid in each of the years since NAMA was established; and if he will give details of the top ten recipients of these fees in each of the years since NAMA was established. [13616/12]

NAMA has provided the property valuation fees below by year, together with the top 10 recipients of these fees in each year. The analysis is based on fees invoiced to and paid by NAMA in the period from inception to 31 January 2012. Amounts are inclusive of VAT. A total of €13.3m has been paid by NAMA for property valuations. €12.4m of the valuation fees paid relate to once-off property valuations carried out as part of the property due diligence in respect of the acquired loans. €0.9m of the valuation fees paid relate to valuations required as part of NAMA's ongoing management of the acquired portfolio

The property valuation fees incurred in respect of property due diligence are recovered from the financial institutions through a reduction in the acquisition value.

Total Property Valuation Expenses by years (€‘000)

Year

Total €’000

2010

4,084

2011

8,947

2012

273

Total

13,304

Top 10 Providers to date (€'000)

Firm

2012

2011

2012

Total €’000

Jones Lang Lasalle Ltd — Dublin

584

655

1,239

Donal O’Buachalla and Co Ltd

329

873

1,201

Colliers International Dublin

444

534

978

Lisney Ltd

293

567

1

861

Knight Frank LLP

266

490

756

WK Nowlan and Associates

327

406

16

748

Cushman and Wakefield

56

576

65

697

Lambert Smith Hampton

111

578

689

HWBC Ltd

210

418

3

630

Savills Commercial (Ireland) Ltd

52

456

105

612

Top 10 Providers by year (€'000)

2010

Firm

€’000

Jones Lang Lasalle Ltd — Dublin

584

Colliers International Dublin

444

Donal O’Buachalla and Co Ltd

329

WK Nowlan and Associates

327

Lisney Ltd

293

CB Richard Ellis

278

Knight Frank LLP

266

Bannon Commercial Property Consultants Ltd

229

HWBC Ltd

210

GVA Grimley Ltd

142

2011

Firm

€’000

Donal O’Buachalla and Co Ltd

873

Jones Lang Lasalle Ltd- Dublin

655

Lambert Smith Hampton

578

Cushman and Wakefield

576

Lisney Ltd

567

Colliers International Dublin

534

Knight Frank LLP

490

Savills Commercial (Ireland) Ltd

456

HWBC Ltd

418

Irish and European

417

2012

Firm

€’000

Savills Commercial (Ireland) Ltd

105

Cushman and Wakefield

65

CB Richard Ellis

42

Frazer Kidd and Partners

22

WK Nowlan and Associates

16

Irish and European

7

Douglas Newman Good

6

Knight Frank (Dublin)

3

HWBC Ltd

3

Colliers International Belfast

2

Tax Code

Jack Wall

Question:

142 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is in receipt of a retirement pension from their former employment should be deducted the universal social charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13623/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners, that based on the information available to them, the person concerned is exempt from the Universal Social Charge (USC) for 2012. A revised tax credit and USC certificate will issue to the person concerned and to his employer over the next few days. The amount of the charge deducted since 1 January 2012 should be refunded by his employer on the next pay date after receipt of the revised certificate.

Commission on Credit Unions

Robert Troy

Question:

143 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance the reason he has not published submissions made to the Commission on the Credit Unions despite a clear commitment to do so when inviting submissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13631/12]

In May 2011 the Government established the Commission on Credit Unions as an independent commission to review the future of the credit union movement and make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for credit unions. In July 2011, the Commission announced a public consultation process and invited views and the question of their publication is a matter for the Commission. The Commission has advised that it will publish the submissions, as intended, after it has completed its deliberations and provided its final report to me. The Commission's final report is due at the end of this month.

Proposed Legislation

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

144 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the proposed betting amendment Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13703/12]

It was announced in Budget 2011 that the necessary arrangements are being made to ensure that bets placed on the internet by domestic punters are subject to the same level of betting duty as applies to high street betting shops. This will serve to broaden the tax base and increase betting duty receipts. The Finance Act 2011 provides for the taxation of bets that remote bookmakers enter into with persons in the State. This means, for example, that a business which engages in online bookmaking and which accepts bets from people in this country will be liable for betting duty on those bets, irrespective of where that business is based. The existing betting duty (1%) will be applied to such bets. The Finance Act also provides for the taxation of Betting Exchanges under the new arrangements; however the calculation of the tax will take account of their particular business model, in other words a tax on the commission charged. In addition, excise duties are being applied to the granting and renewal of remote bookmakers' and remote betting intermediaries' licences.

The proposed Betting (Amendment) Bill, which is being drafted at present, will establish the regulatory framework for these licences. The tax changes provided for in the Finance Act can only be implemented once the Betting (Amendment) Bill is enacted. This Bill is well advanced and it is hoped that it will be published in the second quarter of this year.

I am hopeful that by including the high-growth area of the betting sector the tax base from betting will be boosted significantly.

In addition, this measure conveys a positive signal to international betting operations that have expressed an interest in or have already invested in Ireland. A location with an appropriate licensing regime coupled with relatively low taxes provides real investment and employment opportunities in this sector, which ultimately can potentially be beneficial to all concerned.

Tax Code

Michael Creed

Question:

145 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he or the Revenue Commissioners has calculated the cost of VAT refunds on alcohol products sold below cost; if he will introduce a ban on the retailing of alcohol at below invoice cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13733/12]

VAT is a tax on the value added to a supply and the collection and recovery of VAT takes place at each stage of the chain of supply from manufacturing to retailer. Under EU and domestic VAT rules traders who are registered for VAT collect VAT on the goods and services that they sell. In turn such traders are entitled to recover the VAT they incur on their business inputs used in the purchase or production of goods or delivery of services. Consequently, if there is a decrease in value at any stage in the process the trader is entitled to a refund of the excess of VAT incurred over that collected. In this regard, where a retailer is in a situation of net VAT gain as a result of below cost selling, this is not a loss to the Exchequer or an additional benefit to the retailer, it is merely how VAT is charged.

As regards calculating the VAT impact of below cost sales, separate figures are not available for input VAT on goods that were subsequently sold at a discount because traders' VAT returns show only the total input VAT and the total output VAT for the period covered by the return.

Credit Availability

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he will encourage the banking sector to facilitate viable pig farming enterprises which may need capital investment arising from redevelopment relating to animal welfare provisions, with particular reference to the requirement for ongoing working capital in the current difficult economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13737/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has imposed lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Both banks were required to sanction lending of at least €3 billion in 2011, €3.5 billion this year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs. I can confirm to the Deputy that both banks have achieved their 2011 targets. The banks have been set an overall target for lending to SMEs including farm lending. The Government is conscious that the agricultural sector, in common with other sectors, needs access to credit. The remit of the Credit Review Office which was established to review decisions of the banks to refuse credit explicitly includes the farming sector. All loans to pig farmers are included in the agriculture lending returns.

It is vital that the banks continue to make credit available to support economic recovery. However, it is not in the interest of the banks, businesses or the economy for finance to be provided unless the business is viable and has the capacity to meet the interest payments and repay the sum borrowed.

Tax Code

Brian Stanley

Question:

147 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans to address the issue of travel agents based here paying VAT twice when doing business in another jurisdiction, i.e. when they book accommodation or event tickets in another country, as when doing business in England this means paying 21% VAT and then 23% Irish VAT plus 12.5% corporation tax. [13752/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that provisions covering the Travel Agents Margin Scheme are contained in Section 88 of the VAT Consolidation Act 2010. This scheme, which is provided for in Articles 306 to 310 of the EU VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply, was introduced with effect from 1 January 2010. Detailed discussions with the travel industry were carried out prior to the introduction of the scheme which is a standard EU-wide Scheme in operation in most Member States of the EU. The scheme deals with the activities carried on by travel agents who act in the capacity of a principal when supplying certain travel services such as transport, accommodation, etc, which they have bought in from third parties for onward supply to travellers. Travel agents covered by the scheme are liable to VAT on their margin on the services provided rather than the full consideration they receive in respect of the supply of these services. For example, a travel agent acting as principal in arranging visits to the UK will pay UK VAT at 20% on hotel accommodation and event tickets and incur a zero UK VAT-rate on transport. The travel agent will then pay Irish VAT at 23% only on the margin, that is, the difference between his income from travellers and his expenses in buying in the services (accommodation, tickets, transport). None of the constituents that make up the income from the traveller is subject to VAT more than once.

The nature of the scheme means that the travel agent only has an obligation to account for VAT on the margin in the country where the agent is established. The travel agent has no further VAT obligations in places where the travel services are supplied. The travel agent cannot recover any VAT charged when he/she purchases the travel services but this is because VAT is only accounted for on the margin when the services are supplied on to the traveller. Travel agents, like other traders, can recover VAT on deductible overheads (electricity, heating, stationary) incurred by them in connection with their taxable supplies.

The margin scheme has benefits for a travel agent in terms of complying with their VAT obligations. In the absence of the scheme the travel agent may have compliance obligations across many Member Sates of the EU which would place significant administrative burdens on them.

State Banking Sector

Gerry Adams

Question:

148 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 50 of 29 February 2012, the total cost to IBRC of the eight major contracts it has agreed with core providers for advice relating to the sale of its commercial loan books in 2011 and to date 2012. [13768/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Board of the bank is responsible for the day to day operation of the bank including engagement of advisors relating to the sale of its commercial loan books. The bank has informed me that the Annual Report and Accounts for 2011 are due for release at the end of this month. Relevant details of running costs will be provided in the accounts to enable readers to assess the financial position and performance of the Bank in 2011. To facilitate a review of the financial performance of the Bank, information will be provided on an industry comparable basis regarding administrative costs and total exceptional costs. Additionally, the report will provide details of any net gains or losses arising from the sale of commercial loans in 2011. The disclosure will clarify the treatment of directly related transaction fees charged by advisors and, subject to commercial considerations and bearing in mind the relative impact of such costs on the overall reported net gain or loss, will provide some indication of the level of costs involved.

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

149 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance if he will detail the wages and running costs of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13833/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Board of the bank is responsible for the day to day operation of the bank including the wages and running costs of the bank. The bank has informed me that the IBRC Annual report and Accounts for 2011 are due for release at the end of this month. Relevant details of running costs will be provided in the accounts to enable readers to assess the financial position and performance of the Bank in 2011. To facilitate a review of the financial performance of the Bank, information will be provided on an industry comparable basis, regarding total staff costs, the average number of employees by location, other administrative costs and total exceptional costs.

Tax Collection

John McGuinness

Question:

150 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if all tax or revenue issues relative to the correspondence sent by the Revenue Commissioners to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny have been resolved. [13876/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that all tax issues relative to the correspondence issued by Revenue to the named individual have been resolved.

Proposed Legislation

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

151 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of measures included in the Finance Bill 2012 that were not announced in budget 2012; the cost or revenue implications of each of these measures; the details of any public announcement that had been made of these measures prior to the publication of the Finance Bill 2012; and, for each measure, details of any organisations that lobbied him to bring forward legislation on that measure. [13924/12]

The Finance Bill was published on 8th February and contained 76 measures not announced in Budget 2012. A list of these measures is appended. The issue of costings of measures included in the Bill, including those which were not announced in the Budget, was addressed by my colleague, Minister of State Deputy Brian Hayes, during the Committee Stage of the Bill. As indicated by the Minister of State, the Budget Book published on Budget Day contained a full assessment of the yield and cost on each of the measures proposed. As further indicated by the Minister of State, there is no substantial change in the Finance Bill compared with my Budget Statement in December. There is no major new expenditure item. Indeed, many of the individual proposals contained in the Bill, which were not specifically referred to in the Budget, are technical in nature.

Accordingly I do not consider that it would be an appropriate use of time to provide the detailed breakdown the Deputy has sought in relation to each of these 76 measures. However if he would care to highlight measures in the Bill which are of particular interest to him, I will see that the information relating to these is provided.

MEASURES INCLUDED IN FINANCE BILL 2012 BUT NOT ANNOUNCED IN BUDGET 2012

Income Tax

Section 117 — Civil Partnership

Section 10 — Revenue Job Assist

Section 4 — Share-based Remuneration

Section 11 — Tax Relief on Third Level Fees

Section 115 — Artists Exemption

Section 22 — Significant Buildings And Gardens

Section 35 — Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) — Technical amendments

Section 35 — Foreign Deposit Interest — Tax Rate Anomalies

Section 37 — Encashment Tax Modernisation

Section 6 — Health Insurance Age Related Income Tax Credit

Retirement Relief for Sportspersons

Section 5 — Relief On Retirement For Certain Income Of Certain Sportspersons

Stock Relief

Section 19 — Additional Qualifying Course for Stock Relief for Young Trained Farmers

Section 23 and Accelerated Capital Allowances

Section 15 — High Earners Interaction With Section 23 and Accelerated Capital Allowances

Exit Tax

Section 28 — Life Assurance Exemption for Pension Funds and PRSAs

Section 29 — Collective investment undertakings — rate alignment

EU Savings Directive

Section 108 — Ending of Reporting Exemption for Certain Interest Payments

Capital Gains Tax

Section 61 — Grangegorman Development Agency — Exemption

Section 59 and 61 — Exemptions for Certain State Bodies

Section 60 — Exemption for Compensation Payments to Turf Cutters

Section 56 — Contingent Liabilities

Section 63 — Anti-avoidance — offshore trusts

Section 55 — Anti-avoidance — bearer shares

Capital Acquisitions Tax

Section 95 — Group Tax-Free Thresholds

Section 102 — CAT pay and file date

Section 100 — Agricultural relief — residence condition

Section 100 — Anti-avoidance — agricultural relief

Section 97 and 98 — Anti-avoidance — foundations, general powers of appointment, administration of an estate

Section 18, 96 and 101 — Modernisation — technical changes

Section 99 — Exemptions for sales of heritage property to State bodies

Stamp Duty

Section 93 — Self-assessment and modernisation

Section 87 — Relief for company mergers

Section 86 and 91 — Technical changes

Section 92 — Young Trained Farmer relief

Section 90 — Grangegorman Development Agency — exemption

Section 91 — Health Insurance Levy

Section 91 — Non-life insurance levy

Pension Taxation

Section 17 — Impacts of the Finance Act 2011 reduction in the maximum allowable pension fund for tax purposes (the Standard Fund Threshold or SFT)

Corporation Tax

Section 26 — R&D Tax Credit Scheme

Section 43 — Tax treatment of transactions involving carbon emission allowances under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)

Section 52 — Tax treatment of certain foreign sourced dividends

Section 45 — Tax exemption for certain State-sponsored non-commercial bodies

Sections 42, 53, 47 and 50 — Other Corporation Tax changes

Tax Administration

Section 20 — Professional Services Withholding Tax

Section 21 — Relevant Contracts Tax

Revenue Powers

Section 23 — Relief for investment in films

Section 77 and 104 — Obligation to keep certain records

Section 105 — Taxpayer confidentiality

Section 107 — Returns of payment transactions by payment settlers

Section 106 — Returns of certain information by investment undertakings

Section 109 — Penalty for deliberately or carelessly making incorrect returns, Etc.

Section 110 — Power of Collector-General to require certain persons to provide return of property

Section 111 — Security for certain taxes

Section 113 and Schedule 4 — Modernisation of Direct Taxes Assessing Rules including rules for Self Assessment

Section 114 and Schedule 5 — Miscellaneous amendments relating to administration

Section 116 — Provision of electronic financial statements

Section 118 — Gifts to the State by certain donors

Section 112 — Countering serious tax criminality

International Financial Services

Section 41 — Cash Pooling

Section 51 — Unilateral Credit Relief for inbound leasing royalties

Section 38 — Technical Exposure to Irish tax liability on interest payments to non-residents

Section 40 and 89 — Section 110 measures — Green IFSC Initiative

Section 39 — Taxation of Certain Short Term Leases

Section 46 — Extension of Group Relief for Losses to companies with non-EU/EEA Parent

Section 36 — Islamic Finance

Section 30 — Non-Resident Investors in Irish Funds

Section 31 — Exchange Traded Funds

Section 32, 33 and 34 — UCITS Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities IV Issues — Cross-Border Mergers and Reconstructions of Investment Funds

Section 88 — Extension of Stamp Duty reliefs to accommodate a range of financial transactions

Section 48 and 49 — Relief for excess foreign tax on royalties by reduction of other royalty income

Value-Added Tax

Section 82 — Definition of Bread for VAT Purposes

Section 73, 79, 80 and 81 — Provision for Recovery and Penalties in relation to VAT Refund Orders

Section 74 and 78 — Minor Changes in relation to VAT on Property

Section 76 — Removal of VAT Deductibility on Conference Accommodation where booked under the Travel Agent Margin Scheme

Section 73 — Strengthening VAT Ministerial Orders

Excise

Section 66, 69 and 70 — Carbon Tax

Section 66 — Amendment of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Finance Act 1999.

Tax Reliefs

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

152 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a claim for refund of mortgage interest relief in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a response will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13938/12]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners who inform me that the person concerned first registered a loan for mortgage interest relief on 6 February 2012. Revenue is awaiting confirmation of certain matters from the person concerned in relation to the application. When this information is received by Revenue, they will finalise their consideration of the application without delay.

Tax Collection

Jack Wall

Question:

153 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if persons (details supplied) in County Kildare are due a tax rebate for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13968/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person's tax liability for 2008 was reviewed in 2009 and tax overpaid refunded at that time. No refund is due for 2009 as the correct tax was deducted under PAYE. PAYE Balancing Statement (P21) for 2009 will issue shortly. In relation to the years 2010 and 2011, the Revenue Commissioners are writing to the person concerned for the details necessary to carry out reviews for these years.

International Agreements

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

154 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if Ireland has reached a bilateral agreement with Sweden; the amount the loan agreement was to be for under the original terms of the bailout; the amount that has been advanced or is currently being negotiated; the repayment schedule of same and the interest rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13970/12]

Under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, the external partners will provide loan funding of up to €67.5 billion subject to compliance with the conditionality set out in the Programme. The key objective is to restore confidence and return the economy to a path of sustained growth and to support job creation, with a view to Ireland regaining access to market funding at reasonable rates. The external funding is being sourced as follows:

European Union:

European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism — €22.5 billion

European Financial Stability Facility — €17.7 billion

International Monetary Fund (IMF) — €22.5 billion

Bilateral loans:

UK — €3.8 billion

Sweden — €0.6 billion

Denmark — €0.4 billion

Total External Funding — €67.5 billion.

The bilateral loan element of the EU-IMF programme of financial support is being provided by three EU Member States — the United Kingdom providing approximately €3.8 billion, Sweden €0.6 billion and Denmark €0.4 billion. All bilateral loans will be provided subject to the conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding agreed with the EU/ECB/IMF.

In relation to the Swedish loan facility, the technical discussions on all aspects of the loan facility have been completed. The draft agreement will now be subject to the Swedish approval process. While the final agreement on the interest rate to be charged is subject to this approval process, we expect it to reflect the reductions already agreed in respect of the EU funds.

At this point, as the agreement has yet to be finalised, no funds have been drawn down under the bilateral loan facility with Sweden. The Swedish bilateral loans will have the 7.5 year term initially envisaged for all programme loans i.e. each draw-down amount would be due to be repaid at the date falling 7.5 years after the date of the relevant disbursement.

National Asset Management Agency

Gerry Adams

Question:

155 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 54 of 29 February 2012, the number of the National Asset Management Agency debtors who are in receipt of remuneration packages that fall into the €70,000 to €100,000 range. [13975/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

156 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 54 of 29 February 2012, the number of the National Asset Management Agency debtors who are in receipt of remuneration packages that fall into the €100,000 to €200,000 range. [13976/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.

As previously advised, NAMA, in agreeing business plans it approves the retention of overheads by debtors which include remuneration but at rates much reduced from that previously applied. NAMA deals with about 800 debtor connections, either directly or through the participating institutions acting on its behalf. Each debtor's circumstances are different and the Agency considers that the details of its engagement with those 800 debtors connections, including details of sanctioned overheads, is an operational matter for NAMA.

As previously indicated, I am informed by NAMA that the majority of debtor remuneration packages fall into the €70,000 to €100,000 range. NAMA has also indicated that in two cases the debtors' remuneration package authorised by NAMA as part of their budget for overheads is €200,000.

Furthermore, I am advised by NAMA, that the total salary allowances (included in approved overhead budgets) attributable to NAMA debtors to manage properties and the number of individual debtors in receipt of such payments is as follows: Total number of debtors with approved overheads — 41 debtors. Salary allowance included within the approved overhead for 41 debtors — €4.1m. Total PAR debt managed by these debtors, which represents 25% of total NAMA portfolio — €18.6 bn.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

157 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 61 of 1 March 2012, if he will provide details of the number of cases in 2011 and to date in 2012 in which the Revenue Commissioners has denied mortgage customers the benefit of mortgage interest relief by virtue of the level of mortgage arrears they have; the criteria used by the Revenue in making such decisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14036/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that in relation to mortgage arrears cases reported to them, each case is considered on its individual merits before a decision is made on the continued appropriateness of the granting of mortgage interest relief on the particular mortgage account. I am advised by Revenue in relation to cases reported to them by the lender that in broad terms:

Where no payment is being made against the mortgage then the payment of mortgage interest relief is immediately ceased.

Where an amount of interest is being paid and Revenue receives confirmation from the lender that a structured arrangement has or is being put in place to address the arrear, mortgage relief will continue to be granted in accordance with the relevant interest relief provisions, including relevant thresholds on the maximum interest relief payable.

In instances where relief is ceased on the basis that no payments are being made against the mortgage and subsequent to that, the mortgage is the subject of repayment in accordance with an agreed schedule with the mortgage provider then, subject to an application for the relief by the mortgage holder, the payment of mortgage interest relief is restored in accordance with the relevant interest relief provisions, including relevant thresholds on the maximum interest relief payable.

I am further advised by Revenue that in respect of the 3,865 accounts reported in 2011 and 1,108 accounts reported to date in 2012, reviews are ongoing in some instances and not yet finalised. Additionally, the details of the reviews are maintained at an individual account level and the results are not readily capable of being aggregated across the nearly 5,000 accounts involved. However, based on an informal sample of results carried out for the purpose of this Question, in the order of 50% of cases would be likely to result in the ceasing of mortgage interest relief on the basis that no payments are being made against the mortgage.

National Asset Management Agency

Gerry Adams

Question:

158 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if a company (details supplied) was appointed to a National Asset Management Agency legal adviser panel on 4 January 2012; if the company was at the same time advising Treasury Holdings; his views on whether a conflict of interest occurs; if he was informed of these appointments when they occurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14041/12]

The appointment of this firm to the Corporate Legal Services Panel was announced publicly on the agency's website on 3 January 2012. I am advised by NAMA that this particular firm had in fact been long-standing legal advisors to Treasury Holdings. I am further informed that the firm ceased acting for Treasury Holdings in January 2012 when Treasury Holdings decided to take legal action against NAMA.

In view of the relatively small size of the Irish legal sector, it is a fact that many NAMA debtors will have worked with legal advisors who also do work with NAMA. I am advised that large professional firms typically work for a variety of clients and operate procedures to ensure that potential or actual conflicts of interest are identified and managed. Measures taken by firms include the creation of ethical barriers, more commonly referred to as Chinese Walls, between different divisions of a firm to avoid conflicts of interest. Any professional services firm which supplies services to NAMA is under a continuing obligation to notify NAMA of any potential or actual conflict of interest that may arise.

Section 45 of the NAMA Act 2009 deals with professional standards in the provision of services to NAMA by expert advisers and service providers. In particular, Section 45(c) provides that NAMA should ensure that each expert adviser or service provider should make "every effort to avoid or manage conflicts of interest and to declare any such conflict (actual or potential) to NAMA". I am assured that NAMA in this, as in all cases involving the provision of services, is satisfied that any potential conflict of interest has been appropriately managed.

Gerry Adams

Question:

159 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of all those who are on the National Asset Management Agency legal advisory panel. [14042/12]

I am advised by NAMA that there are three separate legal panels from which NAMA procures legal services. These are:

Corporate Legal Services Panel (established 3 January 2012);

Legal Diligence Services Panel (established 28 November 2009);

Certain Legal Services Panel (established 29 October 2010).

The names of all companies on these panels are listed on the National Asset Management Agency's website at the following address:www.nama.ie/procurement

Price Inflation

John Lyons

Question:

160 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to address the problem of rising petrol prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14043/12]

Ireland, as with other countries, has experienced an increase in the cost of petrol and auto-diesel. The increase in fuel prices is an international phenomenon. Fuel prices are driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty in Northern Africa and the Middle East with potential supply disruptions. The excise rates (including the carbon charge) in Ireland on motor fuels are 58.8 cent per litre of petrol and 47.9 cent per litre of auto-diesel. However, our rates remain lower than many of our main trading partners and significantly lower than our nearest neighbour the UK. The rates for petrol and auto-diesel were increased with effect from 7 December 2011, arising from an increase in the carbon charge for those fuels from €15 to €20 per tonne of CO2 emitted. This represented an increase of less than 1.5 cent per litre in the case of petrol and just over 1.5 cent per litre in the case of diesel, when VAT is included. The rate of VAT that applies to those fuels increased from 21% to 23% with effect from 1 January 2012.

The Exchequer yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT per litre of fuel, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase. However, in this regard it should be borne in mind that to the extent that spending in the economy is re-allocated to petrol and other oil products, and away from other VAT liable spending, and to the extent that the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices, there may be little or no net gain to the Exchequer.

It should also be noted that businesses are of course entitled to reclaim VAT incurred on their business inputs, including VAT incurred on fuel. For example, VAT incurred on auto-diesel and marked gas oil (MGO or green diesel) used in the course of business is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. VAT on petrol can not be deducted/reclaimed.

There are no plans for temporary taxation adjustments, as to do so, could lead to significant costs to the Exchequer. The issue of rising fuel prices was discussed by EU Finance Ministers at an ECOFIN meeting last year where they reconfirmed the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were very high, which endorsed a coordinated approach towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.

Tax Reliefs

John Lyons

Question:

161 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance if he will expedite the refund of tax relief for a medical expenses claim from the Revenue Commissioners in respect of a person (detail supplied) in Dublin 6W; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14073/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Medical Expenses claim was submitted in early February 2012. A PAYE Balancing Statement giving relief for medical expenses incurred for 2011 will issue shortly and a refund of tax will be paid directly to the person's bank account within the next 2 weeks.

Revenue Commissioners Investigations

Clare Daly

Question:

162 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the progress of the Revenue Commissioners’ investigation into an organisation (details supplied) which began in November 2011 arising from allegations of withholding of relevant contracts tax. [14115/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality they unable to comment on any enquires being made in individual cases.

Social Welfare Benefits

Anne Ferris

Question:

163 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the alarm created among older persons by media reports suggesting the IMF was seeking the abolition of or cuts to a range of services designed to assist elderly persons, including pensions, free travel and medical cards; if such a request or suggestion has been received from the IMF; if he will give details of his response to any such request or suggestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14118/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland agreed a programme of financial support in late 2010 with the ECB, European Commission and the IMF (the Troika). This programme is worth €85 billion, with €17.5 billion coming from our own resources and €67.5 billion of loans being provided from EU funds, the IMF and bilateral lenders. Without this funding the State would not have been able to raise the funds necessary to pay for key public services for our citizens. The programme provides us with a road map to get out of the current crisis. Its objectives are to ensure that the economy can return to sustainable growth, consolidate our fiscal position and support the return to a properly functioning banking system. The provision of this funding is conditional on meeting policy commitments. These commitments are negotiated with our external partners. It is also the case that our EU membership requires us to bring our General Government deficit below 3% of GDP by 2015. The adjustments we are undertaking are those that would be required in the normal course. The EU-IMF funding provides us with the space to do so over a number of years. Our performance in meeting the programme conditionality is reviewed on a quarterly basis. These reviews cover a broad range of policy issues. As part of the review process, both the EU and the IMF review teams prepare an assessment, titled a "Staff Report", to inform their decision making process. The content of such reports is the responsibility of the relevant organisations. I would emphasise that the policy measures to which we have committed are solely those set out in the programme documents.

In the case of fiscal consolidation, the commitments included are defined in terms of broad aggregate adjustments for both taxation and expenditure in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and are set in the context of the Government's Medium Term Fiscal Strategy (MTFS) published in November 2011. The relevant commitment gives the Government scope within the overall parameters to determine the appropriate policy choices to achieve the required fiscal consolidation.

I am aware that the IMF Staff Report suggests that the principle of more means testing could be extended to the elderly in terms of "reducing non targeted old age expenditure" and that it cites some examples in this regard. These references in the IMF staff report reflect the IMF staff's suggestions. The Government is well aware of the concerns raised by such references. However the final decisions on the fiscal adjustment measures to be adopted in Budget 2013, scheduled for later this year, will be taken by the Government in the context of the overall fiscal parameters set out in the programme and will be based on the Government's assessment of its priorities and requirements taking account of the prevailing macroeconomic conditions.

State Banking Sector

Terence Flanagan

Question:

164 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide information (details supplied) regarding Anglo Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14149/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the bank has no means of establishing the underlying ownership of these securities which are freely tradeable once issued. These securities are publicly traded and dealt through market participants and settled by clearing house systems. An issuer does not have any access to the records of the clearing house. At maturity, the Bank will instruct its paying agent to transfer the funds due to the clearing house who will then distribute the funds to the holders of the securities as per their records. Even where the bank is presented with lists alleging to represent names of bondholders I am informed there is no way for the bank or anyone else to verifying the veracity of such lists. In the circumstances the Deputy will appreciate that there is nothing further I can do to identify the names of the bondholders.

Proposed Legislation

Brian Walsh

Question:

165 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a legislative amendment of the Investment Intermediaries Act 1995 to exempt unincorporated business firms with turnovers below a prescribed limit from the obligation to appoint an auditor to make a report of their accounts, as is the case for small and medium enterprises operating in other sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14246/12]

Under the Investment Intermediaries Act 1995, all investment firms must have their accounts audited. It is also a requirement that their auditors submit a Statutory Duty Confirmation. At least six weeks before the firm's return is due, the Central Bank sends an email to the firm requesting the auditor's details and the firm must provide these details. While there are sound reasons for this requirement to provide audited accounts, I am mindful of the need to reduce unnecessary overheads, in particular for small firms. I am aware that small, non-financial services firms are not required to submit audited accounts and I have asked my officials to review the current situation, in conjunction with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and the Central Bank of Ireland.

International Agreements

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

166 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 37 of 7 March 2012 on Ireland’s participation in discussions regarding access to the European Stability Mechanism funds being contingent on the ratification of the fiscal compact, in which he did not indicate the position taken by him in these talks, if he and or officials argued for or against the inclusion of this requirement, and the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14325/12]

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

167 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 37 of 7 March 2012 on Ireland’s participation in discussions regarding access to European Stability Mechanism funds being contingent on ratification of the fiscal compact, in which he stated that inclusion of the provision was of particular importance to a number of partners, the partners to which he is referring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14328/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 167 together.

As I have stated before, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty, which was signed by all Euro Area Member States on 2 February, subject to ratification, provides that "the granting of financial assistance in the framework of new programmes under the ESM will be conditional, as of 1 March 2013, on ratification of the TSCG by the ESM Member concerned" and on implementation of the balanced budget rule as specified in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union within the agreed timeline (one year after entry into force of the latter).

In the negotiations, the Government sought to ensure that it was made clear that the link between ratification of the TSCG and the ESM Treaty applied only to new applications for assistance under the ESM, and that it will not affect the transfer to the ESM of undisbursed amounts under the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) for Ireland and other programme countries. It also sought to ensure that sufficient time was provided for ratification of the TSCG before the link enters into effect.

The Government did not actively seek to include the link between the two Treaties. However, it is entirely logical and reasonable that a country receiving the support of its partners under the ESM should be prepared to run sensible budgetary policies as required under the new Treaty.

It is for partners to describe their own negotiating positions. However, it is a matter of public record that the German Government and the Governments of the other AAA countries regards the link between the solidarity offered under facilities such as the ESM and a commitment to budgetary discipline as an important one.

Asbestos Remediation Programme

Brendan Griffin

Question:

168 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding asbestos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13624/12]

In accordance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, individual school authorities are responsible in the first instance, for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care. My Department set-aside funding each year to address Health and Safety issues including the removal of damaged asbestos materials from primary and post-primary schools.

Schools that were identified by the Office of Public Works as having a level of asbestos that was deemed to be a Health and Safety issue have had the asbestos removed under my Department's Remediation Programme. If a school authority has a concern in relation to damaged asbestos materials in their school building it is open to that school to submit an application for funding to the Building Unit of my Department. All applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.

FÁS Training Programmes

Peter Mathews

Question:

169 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14 will receive a place on a FÁS course; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13678/12]

I am informed that the person in question can expect to be offered a place on a GID course in June/July 2012. I understand that the person in question was referred to the FÁS Ballyfermot GID course waiting list on 16th January, 2012. However, due to the high demand for this course there are a number of other FAS clients also on the waiting list. The structure of the FÁS Ballyfermot GID course scheduling system is designed to maximise available training provision for eligible clients wishing to participate on the course. The GID course is 12 days in duration and FÁS Ballyfermot simultaneously deliver both day and evening GID courses over a period of 6 weeks.

Special Educational Needs

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

170 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps she will take to implement the recommendations made by the Ombudsman for Children following an investigation regarding the refusal to provide an assistive technology grant to a child by the Department of Education and Skills published on 7 March 2012. [13974/12]

Firstly, I wish to explain to the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports. SENOs also make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology is required. In order to qualify for equipment under the assistive technology scheme, a child must have been diagnosed with a physical or communicative disability and must also have a recommendation in a professional assessment that the equipment is essential in order to allow the child to access the curriculum. It must also be clear that the existing I.T. equipment in the school is insufficient to meet the child's needs. In such circumstances, the NSCE may recommend the provision of assistive technology support and a grant for the recommended equipment may be paid to the school by my Department.

All applications for assistive technology support must be treated equitably. As such, it is not possible to extend the scheme to pupils who do not qualify under the scheme's criteria as to do so would have significant resource and policy considerations. However in the event that new information comes to hand such as new medical reports or assessments, a SENO can review any application for assistive technology which had previously been refused. Officials in my Department are currently drafting a new circular which will provide clarity for parents and schools regarding the operation and qualification criteria for the scheme. Recommendations made by the Office of the Ombudsman for Children in relation to the case referred to by the Deputy are currently under consideration in my Department.

School Accommodation

Seán Crowe

Question:

171 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the schools that will benefit from the €35 million to replace prefabricated and temporary classroom accommodation. [13453/12]

Schools that have been offered an opportunity to replace rented prefabs with permanent accommodation are outlined in the following list. All of the schools have been contacted by my Department's Planning and Building Unit:

County

Roll

School

Carlow

04077I

St Brigid’s NS

Carlow

16080N

St Phadraig Naofa

Carlow

61140K

St. Leo’s College

Cavan

08453H

Crubany NS

Cavan

17326B

St Felim’s NS

Cavan

17625L

Knocktemple NS

Clare

04919H

St John’s NS

Clare

15301V

Kildysart NS

Clare

16186G

Inch NS

Clare

16946D

Parteen NS

Clare

19274S

St. Conaire’s NS

Clare

20041C

St. Senan’s Convent

Clare

20075T

St. Mochulla’s NS

Clare

20245S

Scoil Mhainchin

Cork

02114B

Ballygiblin NS

Cork

04118T

Bishop Ahern NS

Cork

12041G

St. John the Baptist, Midleton NS

Cork

13375R

Scoil Bhríde

Cork

13512B

Scoil Mhuire Lourdes

Cork

13779S

Dromahane NS

Cork

15484J

SN an Chroí Naofa

Cork

15594Q

Grange NS

Cork

15701O

Bartlemy NS

Cork

15792U

SN Naomh Micheál

Cork

16339F

St Joseph’s NS

Cork

17168J

SN Inis Eoghain

Cork

17360B

SN Mhuire

Cork

17505B

Brooklodge NS

Cork

17639W

CBS Primary School

Cork

17823P

Glantane NS

Cork

17972J

Killmurry NS

Cork

17993R

Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (B) (Glasheen BNS)

Cork

18377A

St Joseph’s NS

Cork

18468D

St Mary’s NS

Cork

18497K

Scoil Inse Ratha

Cork

18535P

St John’s GNS

Cork

19256Q

Scoil Ghobnatan

Cork

19404F

Scoil Mhuire SN

Cork

19760E

Scoil Triest

Cork

19761G

St Peter’s NS

Cork

20222G

Scoil Chuil-Aodha/Barr dInse

Cork

62421A

Presentation Sec School

Cork

62730N

St Patricks College

Donegal

11843O

Niall Mor NS

Donegal

16821G

St Patricks GNS

Donegal

17728V

SN Talamh na Coitle

Donegal

19343L

SN Dhubhthaigh

Donegal

71140Q

Crana College

Dublin

01170G

Naul National School

Dublin

01795A

Central Model Infants School

Dublin

06200O

St Mary’s BNS

Dublin

16972E

SS Peter and Paul JNS

Dublin

17083B

Scoil Mhuire gan Smal

Dublin

18386B

Marist NS

Dublin

18412W

Scoil Phadraic C

Dublin

18976W

St Colmcilles BNS

Dublin

19066L

Loreto Primary

Dublin

19220S

Scoil Ide

Dublin

19221U

Scoil Aine

Dublin

19515O

St. Teresa’s NS

Dublin

19601H

St Philip the Apostle JNS

Dublin

19625V

Scoil Realt na Mara

Dublin

19877C

Holy Family SNS

Dublin

19907I

Gaelscoil Mologa

Dublin

20035H

St. Gabriels NS

Dublin

03359N

Ballyroan Boys NS

Dublin

16860Q

Corpus Christi NS

Dublin

17953F

Edmondstown NS

Dublin

18411U

St Marys NS

Dublin

19470S

St Francis Xavier JNS

Dublin

19472W

St Marks JNS

Galway

07551C

Ballinderreen NS

Galway

13208V

Convent Primary School

Galway

16804G

SN Chlair na Gaillimhe

Galway

19544V

Kilchreest NS

Galway

19803T

Scoil Sheamais Naofa

Galway

19996K

St Brendan’s NS

Galway

62880J

St Joseph’s College

Kerry

03132I

Sliabh A’Mhadra NS

Kerry

13615L

Scoil Eoin

Kerry

19547E

St Francis Spec School

Kildare

08099P

St. Laurences N S

Kildare

12747A

Scoil na Mainistream De La Salle

Kildare

15599D

St. Brigid’s Primary School

Kildare

16707I

St Peter’s BNS

Kildare

16845U

St Mochuo’s N S

Kildare

17254C

St Corbans

Kildare

17968S

Two Mile House NS

Kildare

18515J

Scoil an Lenbh Iosa

Kildare

18644U

Straffan NS

Kilkenny

00788V

Lisdowney NS

Kilkenny

01300Q

St Michael’s NS

Kilkenny

15632V

St Joseph’s GNS

Kilkenny

16140F

Skeaghvasteen NS

Kilkenny

16875G

St Patricks NS

Kilkenny

17093E

St Brendans NS

Kilkenny

17108O

St Johns Junior NS

Kilkenny

18660S

St Nicholas NS

Kilkenny

19856R

Gaelscoil Osraí

Laois

07183W

St Josephs GNS

Laois

13741Q

Rath NS

Laois

18150S

Scoil an Fraoich Mhoir

Leitrim

16474L

St. Mary’s NS

Leitrim

17233R

St Clare’s NS

Leitrim

19423J

St Patrick’s NS

Limerick

06539H

Knockea NS

Limerick

11422N

Mahoonagh

Limerick

16443A

Scoil Phádraig Naofa Buachaillí

Limerick

16508C

Ahane NS

Limerick

17937H

Monaleen NS

Limerick

18426K

Scoil Ide Naofa

Limerick

18692I

Catherine McAuley School. (SS)

Louth

01434O

St Colmcilles NS

Louth

15259C

St Malachys Girls Sch

Louth

17059E

Iosaif na mBraithre

Louth

17856H

Scoil Naomh Mhuire

Louth

17965M

SN Bhride

Louth

18098T

Scoil N Bhride C

Louth

18148I

Scoil Bhride Lann Leire

Louth

18504E

St Malachys Boys

Louth

19223B

SN Padraig Naofa

Louth

63900R

St Vincents Secondary School

Mayo

07054L

Scoil Naomh Bríd

Mayo

11725I

Behymore NS

Mayo

12206M

SN Padraig

Mayo

14400S

Richmond NS

Mayo

15555G

Breaffy NS

Mayo

16904K

Lankill NS

Mayo

17082W

SN Chomain Naofa

Mayo

17209U

Caoneal NS

Mayo

18070U

Muire Gan Smal

Mayo

19402B

Ballyvary Central NS

Meath

00883P

St Annes

Meath

01309L

St Patricks NS

Meath

04210H

St Josephs NS

Meath

05630L

St Michaels NS

Meath

11039O

Kilbeg NS

Meath

15104T

Scoil Bhride

Meath

16549Q

Scoil Naoimh Pio

Meath

17520U

Robinstown NS

Meath

18132Q

Scoil Mhuire

Meath

18448U

Rathbeggan NS

Monaghan

16769H

Latnamard NS

Monaghan

16923O

SN Iorball Sionnaigh

Monaghan

17686I

Scoil Mhuire BNS

Offaly

07949I

Oxmantown NS

Roscommon

14356S

Lisaniskey NS

Sligo

04487E

Achonry NS

Sligo

18334F

Knockminna

Sligo

18575E

Scoil Naomh Molaise

Sligo

18979F

Scoil Ursula

Tipperary

01594N

Scoil Eoin Naofa

Tipperary

09190G

Boher NS

Tipperary

16077B

Ardfinnan NS

Tipperary

16211C

Scoil Mochaomhog Naofa

Tipperary

18062V

Grange NS

Waterford

01395H

Aglish National School

Waterford

17159I

Garranbane NS

Waterford

17525H

Light of Christ School

Waterford

17535K

S.N. Fionnabhair (Fenor NS)

Waterford

18094L

Scoil Mhuire

Waterford

18235D

St Marys BNS

Waterford

20143K

Waterpark National School

Westmeath

05916G

St Annes Ns

Westmeath

14603J

Convent Primary School

Westmeath

18262G

SN Lochan a’Bhealaigh

Westmeath

18405C

St Paul’s NS

Westmeath

20063M

Scoil an Chlochair

Westmeath

20073P

St Marys NS

Wexford

05070W

Scoil Chroi Ro Naofa

Wexford

11986N

Mercy National School

Wexford

16409A

St Marys NS

Wexford

16605A

Kilrane NS

Wexford

16828U

Oylegate NS

Wexford

17768K

Castletown NS

Wexford

17800D

Bree NS

Wexford

17841R

Scoil Mhuire

Wexford

18280I

St Josephs Boys Primary

Wexford

18558E

Piercestown NS

Wexford

19739N

Scoil Mhuire

Wicklow

01782O

SN Padraig

Wicklow

11372B

Scoil Mhuire Realt Na Mara

Wicklow

14398L

Glebe NS

Wicklow

16573N

St Brigid’s NS

Wicklow

16634H

St Laurence O’Toole’s NS

Wicklow

17826V

Na Coroine Mhuire Mixed

Wicklow

18365Q

Kilmacanogue NS

Wicklow

19734D

St Francis’s NS

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

172 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details in respect of the number and names of all semi-State companies and statutory agencies under the remit of his Department; if he will provide a list of all members of the board of such organisations for the years 2007 to 2011, inclusive; if he will provide a list of all expenses associated with membership of these boards on an individual basis for the relevant years; if he will provide information relating to the profession or occupation of all such members of the relevant State companies and statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13503/12]

The information requested by the Deputy for the years 2007-2010 is not centrally collated within my Department and it would require a substantial amount of administrative time to identify and extract the full range of details sought. It is the case that much of the information requested on Board memberships for bodies under the aegis of my Department is available in annual reports and other documents published by various bodies. Many of these reports are available in the Oireachtas Library or can be downloaded from the websites of the bodies concerned.

In respect of 2011 the following information is available in the following table:

The Name (and website details) of the Bodies under the aegis of my Department,

The names of Board Members per Board as of 31st December 2011,

Remuneration Fees applicable to Board Members (2011),

Total expenses paid to Board Members — excluding fees (2011).

While my Department does not keep details relating to the profession or occupation of all Board members of each body under the aegis of my Department the Deputy should note that Board members are appointed in line with relevant legislation (were appropriate). In addition all individuals who hold designated directorships in public bodies prescribed by regulation for the purposes of the Ethics legislation must comply with the relevant provisions of the legislation. Compliance with the Ethics Act is deemed to be a condition of appointment.

Remuneration/Fees Applicable in 2011

Board Members — Total Expenses

Agency Name (and Website Address)

Board Members (as of 31st December 2011)

Chairperson

Ordinary Member

2011 (excluding Fees)

An Chomhairle um Oideachais Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochtawww.cogg.ie

John Carr (Chair)Mairéad Ní ChualáinAnna Ní ChartúirBernadette Ní DhuibhirCathnia Ó MuircheartaighFíona Uí UiginnClodagh Ní MhaoilchiaráinBríd Uí LubhaingYvonne Ní MhurchúMáire Nic NiallaisMícheál Ó BroinSéan Ó TuairisgBláthnaid Ní GhréacháinMáire Ní ChuinneagáinDeirbhile Nic CraithRobert CroninJudith Ní MhurchúMichael DohertyMáire Uí ChonghaileSeosamh Ó CoinnePádraig Mac Criostail

€0

€0

€13,336.40

Commission into Child Abusewww.childabusecommission.ie

Judge Sean Ryan (Chair)Ms Norah GibbonsMr Fred LoweMs Marian ShanleyProfessor Edward TempanyMs Anne McLoughlinMs Mary Fennessy

See Note 1

€0

Education Finance Boardwww.educationfinanceboard.com

Mr Richard Langford (Chair)Ms Bernadette FahyMr Christy HeaphyMr Michael O’BrienMr Patrick WalshMs Jacinta StewartMr Peter OrmondMr Brian MooneyMr John Brennan

€0

€0

€23,053.36

Foras Áiseanna Saothairwww.fas.ie

Michael Dempsey (Chair)Tony DempseyMichael MoriartyEmer GilvarryMartin HoganAnnette HughesPaddy McDonaghBrendan MurphySean O’LongáinMargaret SweeneyPaul O’Toole (DG FÁS)

€20,520

€11,790

€8,128.24

Further Education and Training Awards Councilwww.fetac.ie

Mr. Donal O’Rourke (Chair)Dr. Padraig WalshMs. Margaret O’ConnellMr. Rory O’SullivanMr. Joseph O’LearyMs. Deirdre KeyesMs. Bridie DalyMs. Margaret MernaghMr. John MulcahyMr. Tony PetitMs. Shira Mehiman6 Vacancies

€0

€0

€13,176

Grangegorman Development Agencywww.ggda.ie

John Fitzgerald (Chair)Mr. Michael Hand, CEOProfessor Brian NortonDr. Dominmic DillaneCllr. Emer CostelloMr. Dick GleesonMs. Denise O’DowdMs. Jacinta StewartMr. John MonahanMr. Bob CogginsMs. Maria GroganCllr. Mary FitzpatrickMr. Brian GilroyMs. Anne O’ConnorMr. David Geary

€8,978

€0

€0

Higher Education and Training Awards Councilwww.hetac.ie

Prof. Seamus Smyth (Chair)Dr. Padraig WalshMs. Mary McGlynnDr. Finola Doyle-O’NeillDr. Maria HinfelaarDr. Diarmuid O’CallaghanAengus O’MaolainDr. Marion PalmerDr Ide Ní FhaoláinDr. Barbara BirminghamMr. Norman Sharp3 Vacancies

€0

€0

€6,600

Higher Education Authoritywww.hea.ie

Mr. John Hennessy (Chairman)Dr. Maeve ConrickDr. Maria MeehanProf Ellen HazelkornProf. E. Harkin JonesProf. Marijk van der WendeDr. Mary DalyDr. Cepta BroughamMs. Kathleen LoughMs. Grace CorcoranCllr. Brendan ByrneMr. John DolanMr. Eamonn GrennanMr. Ray McCarthyDr. Mary CanningProf. Frances RuaneMr Noel DavernMr. Jim RuaneMr. Gary Redmond

€11,970

€7,695

€16,063

Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technologywww.ircset.ie

Professor Anita MaguireMr. John Andy BonarMr. John PowerDr. Kevin ByrneDr. Ivan CoulterProf. Chris DaintyProf. Stephen O’BrienProf. Alan SmeatonDr Tomás WardDr Thomas M. CooneyProfessor Orla FeelyDr Pauline KingDr.Riitta MustonenDr. André BrodkorbMr. Martin Hynes

€0

€0

€1,1234

Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Scienceswww.irchss.ie

Professor Caroline Fennell (Chair)Dr. Michael BreenProfessor John BrewerProfessor Kathleen LynchProfessor John CoakleyProfessor Vincent ComerfordProfessor Michael CroninProfessor Sheila GreeneProfessor Rowena PeccheninoProfessor Sean RyderMr. Tom Dennehy

€0

€0

€5,916

Léargas — The Exchange Bureauwww.leargas.ie

Des O’Loughlin (acting Chair)Geraldine SkellyDomenica CreanMarian O’Callaghan5 Vacancies

€0

€0

€5,636.25

National Centre for Guidance in Educationwww.ncge.ie

Mr. Barra Ó Briain (Chair)Mr. Jim MullinMs. Marian O’CallaghanMr. John WynneMs. Margaret KellyMr. Colum LaytonMs. Eilis CoakleyMs. Patricia McDonaghMr. Paul HillMr. Peter BrownMs. Grace O’Grady

€0

€0

€241.02

National Council for Curriculum and Assessmentwww.ncca.ie

Dr. Tom Collins, (Chair)Ms. Eilis Humphreys, (Vice-Chair)Ms. Máire Áine Úi AodhaMr. Michael RedmondMr. Stephen McCarthy Sr. Betty O’RiordanMs. Hilary McBainMs. Patricia McCrossanMr. Joe MoranMs. Moira LeydonMr. Tim O’MearaMs. Bernie JudgeMs. Deirbhile Nic CraithMr. Declan KelleherMr. Michael DelargeyMr. Frank TurpinDr. Rose MaloneMs. Eileen SalmonMr. Donal CooperMr. Jim MooreProfessor Noirín HayesMr. Seán Ó CoinnMr. Aidan FarrellMr. Éamonn Murtagh

€0

€0

€10,240.02

National Council for Special Educationwww.ncse.ie

Sydney Blan (Chair)Dr. Seamus HegartySr Maighread Ní GhallchobhairTom O’SullivanMaureen CostelloDon MahonDr. Anne LodgeJoan RussellPat KinsellaJulie O’LearySiobhan BarronMichael CoughlanMr. James O’Grady

€0

€0

€11,489

National Qualifications Authority of Irelandwww.nqai.ie

Mr. Paul Haran (Chair)Dr. Padraig WalshMs. Audrey DeaneProf Seamus SmithMr. Donal O’RourkeProf. Anne ScottMr. Gary RedmondMs. Maire BourkeMr. Tony DonohueMr. Eamon DevoyProf. Anne MoranMr. Mogens Berg2 Vacancies

€0

€0

€6,279

Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB)www.rirb.ie

The Honourable Judge Esmond Smyth (Chair)Dr. Helen CummiskeyDr Ruth PilkingtonMs Ann O’Brien B.LDr. Mary Concannon BluettMs Dariona ConlonMs Fionnuala O’LoughlinMr John CampbellDr. Harry BuglerMs Samantha Cruess CallaghanDr William Delaney

See Note 2

€58,081.86

Residential Institutions Review Committee (RIRC)See RIRB website

Mr Justice Frank Murphy (Chair)Judge John BuckleyMr Colm GaynorMs Ita ManganMr Brendan GogartyMr John Dalton

See Note 2

€0

Skillnets Ltd.www.skillnets.ie

Domhnall MacDomhnaill (Chairman)Terry HobdellNiall SaulPeter RigneyNuala KeherHenry MurdochMairead DivillyBrendan McGintyIan TalbotGeorge HennessyMícheál Ó FiannachtaEamon DevoyKarl McDonagh

€8,978

€5,985

€4,090

State Examinations Commissionwww.examinations.ie

Mr. Richard Langford, ChairpersonMs. Breda Nolan, DeputyMr. Tony BehanMs. Eleanor WalshMr. Ivor Gleeson

€11,970

€7,695

€9,286.55

The Teaching Councilwww.teachingcouncil.ie

Lily Cronin (Chair)Séan RowleyMaree O’ConnellMicheál Ó GríofaMicheál KilcrannDympna MulkerrinsMilo WalshMary BrennanChristy CarrollAlice O’ConnellAnne Mc ElduffGerry MaloneNoel BuckleyChristopher MaginnBernadine O’SullivanFergal McCarthyPat McQuaileSusie HallElaine DevlinMichael BarryTim O’MearaVivienne MacSweeneyDr. Anne O’GaraProfessor Pauric TraversDr.Jim GleesonProfessor Kathy HallEileen FlynnAntoinette BuggleCiarán FlynnJerry CroninAnita McCannEleanor PetrieOliver DonohoeDr. Kevin MarshallDr. Pádraig HoganEmer EganDr. Séan Rowland

€0

€0

€129,129 (See Note 3)

Note 1: The Chairperson of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse (CICA) is a member of the judiciary who is not paid by the CICA. The ordinary members of the Commission, who were all salaried, are not currently, and were not in 2011, on the payroll.

Note 2: In 2011 the Chairperson of the RIRB, as a member of the judiciary, was not paid by the RIRB while the Chairperson of the RIRC was paid an annual salary for a Supreme Court judge subject to abatement to take account of his pension. From October 2011 the Chairperson of the RIRC took a 50% voluntary reduction in salary. The other board members of both the RIRB and the RIRC are paid a per diem rate and pension abatement applies in the case of members receiving a pension from the State. The per diem rate from 1st January 2011 was €668 per day.

Note 3: The Teaching Council has been self-financing since March 2008.

EU Funding

Robert Dowds

Question:

173 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding his Department receives from the European Union on an annual basis; and the services that this funding goes toward. [13527/12]

The Department receives funding from the European Commission to fund the activities of the Irish national agency for Eurydice, the European Information Network. The International Section of the Department acts as national agency in this regard. In 2012, funding will amount to €53,000. In addition to funds provided directly to the Department, the EU also funds projects in Ireland, in the field of school, higher or adult education, or vocational training, through its Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP). LLP funds are provided directly every year by the European Commission to the Departmental agencies Léargas and the Higher Education Authority, which are the Irish national agencies for the LLP, for disbursement in accordance with EU regulations. The total amount provided in 2011 for this purpose was €10m. Ireland is currently participating in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) organised by the OECD. There are international and national costs involved. The International cost paid to the OECD is eligible for a refund from the EU. The total International cost in 2011 was €86,706 and a refund of €65,029.50 (75%) was received by the Department. Ireland has received refunds annually since 2008.

The European Social Fund (ESF) is received from the European Commission following the submission of a claim from the Department of Education and Skill's Certifying Authority under the Human Capital Investment Operational Programme 2007-2013 (HCI OP) in respect of expenditure under the HCI OP. The total ESF funding available to Ireland under the HCI OP is €375,362,370 and the Department's anticipated share of this is approximately. €349 million. The ESF is invested in the following measures:- Skills Training, Back to Education Initiative, Undergraduate Skills, Labour Market Activation Fund, Adult Literacy, Third Level Access, Youthreach and Travellers and Technical Assistance.

The ESF in Ireland is fully committed for the period 2007 to 2013. However, the amount received varies from year to year depending on the claim submitted by the Certifying Authority. The total amount of ESF expenditure drawn down to the end of 2011 was €199m. In addition, the Department has made a number of successful applications in recent years for co-financing under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). EGF funding is sought to co-finance the provision of programmes of active labour market measures which are aimed at assisting workers made redundant as a result of the adverse impacts of globalisation. EGF applications may be made by a Member State on a discretionary basis on foot of specific criteria in the EGF Regulations (Nos. 1927/2006 and 546/2009) being met. A financial contribution under the EGF is received in a single payment following full and due consideration by the European Commission of a Member State's application and, upon approval, requires an affirmative decision made by the EU budgetary authority. The EGF decision making process can take a considerable amount of time to be completed procedurally given the involvement of the various EU organs. Ireland has received some €60.6m in total EGF funding in 2010 and 2011 in relation to the six EGF applications submitted in the period to the end of 2011.

School Staffing

Seán Crowe

Question:

174 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills, in view of changes to the allocation of school guidance counsellors, when schools are forced to redeploy their school guidance counsellors, if he will clarify the following, namely, the person who will set and correct the assessment test for incoming first years; the person who is qualified to conduct and correct differential aptitude tests for our third year classes; the person who will make contact with the primary schools of all incoming first years in order to build up a profile for teachers at the beginning of the school year; the person who will provide the essential counselling service to students who have problems in their personal or home lives; the person who will advise leaving certificate students on their subject choices and on filling in their CAO forms; the person who will organise trips to career seminars; the person who will organise the annual study skills seminars for first, third and sixth years as well as the accompanying talk for parents; the person who will explain to the third years, transition year students and their parents about their subject choices for the leaving certificate course; and the person who will coordinate the pastoral care system in the school. [13530/12]

My Department has just recently published Circular 0009/2012 to inform all post primary school management and staff of the staffing arrangements for post-primary schools for the 2012/13 school year, including in particular, the requirements to manage guidance from within the standard allocation. The circular is available on the Department website. Schools will have autonomy on how best to prioritise its available resources to meet its requirements in relation to guidance and the provision of an appropriate range of subjects to its students. Decisions on how this is done will be taken at school level and I am confident that schools will act in the best interest of students when determining precisely how to use the teaching resources available to them.

Telecommunications Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when it might be expected that high speed broadband facilities will be made available to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the number of students at the college, the urgency arising from the concern of the parents and the need to provide modern high speed telecommunications to the educational sector; if the school may be considered as an optimal site for a pilot of the upcoming phase in the north Kildare region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13541/12]

A working group comprising representatives from my Department, HEAnet and the Department of Communications and Natural Resources have recommended a strategy for the roll out of 100 mbps to post primary schools. The national roll-out will be completed over three stages with 200 schools being connected by September 2012, a further 200 being connected next year and the remaining 250 schools being connected in 2014. The first 200 schools to be installed are located in areas which are served by poorer performing technologies viz., Cavan, Clare, Donegal, Galway, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath.

The next 200 schools will be selected once work is complete on the re-tendering of schools under the current schools broadband programme and once the first 200 schools have been connected to the 100 Mbps scheme. Therefore I am not in a position at present to state when St. Wolsten's Community College will be installed other than the fact that all post primary schools will be installed by the end of 2014. Any issues arising in the course of the roll out will be referred to the Joint Departmental Steering Group in the first instance for guidance.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

176 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown of the schools in County Kerry that will benefit from the roll-out of broadband; and when it is expected that broadband will be provided to them. [13577/12]

A working group comprising representatives from my Department, HEAnet and the Department of Communications and Natural Resources have recommended a strategy for the roll out of 100 mbps to all post primary schools. The national roll-out will be completed over three stages with 200 schools being connected by September 2012, a further 200 being connected next year and the remaining 250 schools being connected in 2014. The first 200 schools to be installed are located in areas which are served by poorer performing technologies viz., Cavan, Clare, Donegal, Galway, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath.

The next 200 schools will be selected once work is complete on the re-tendering of schools under the current schools broadband programme and once the first 200 schools have been connected to the 100 Mbps scheme. Therefore I am not in a position at present to state when all the post primary schools in County Kerry will be installed other than the fact that all post primary schools will be installed by the end of 2014. A list of all post primary schools by County can be viewed on the Department of Education website. Any issues arising in the course of the roll out will be referred to the Joint Departmental Steering Group in the first instance for guidance.

Site Acquisitions

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

177 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will request that the relevant officials in his Department facilitate a meeting with a delegation from a group of schools (details supplied) seeking to advance the development of a new education campus in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13583/12]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has no record of receiving proposals in relation to the development of a new education campus in the area to which he refers. It is open to the schools in question to furnish details of their proposals to the Department for consideration initially. In regard to the Post Primary School, in line with the requirement identified for educational provision in the Monasterevin area, my Department has sought the assistance of, and is working closely with the relevant Local Authority in relation to identifying and acquiring a suitable site for a new building for the Post-Primary school referred to by the Deputy. Due to the commercial sensitivities pertaining to site acquisitions generally I am not in a position to comment further at this time.

As the Deputy is aware, total enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to grow by almost 70,000 between now and 2018 (over 45,000 at primary level and 25,000 at post primary) and will continue to grow up to at least 2024 at post-primary level. The priority now is to focus on major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet the demographic demands. The primary aim will be to ensure that every child will have access to a school place. The Deputy will also be aware that yesterday I announced details of 219 new major school building projects which will begin over the next five years as part of a €2 billion capital investment programme. These new projects are in addition to 56 major school building projects that I already announced to go on site in 2012.

Student Loan Scheme

Willie O'Dea

Question:

178 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a loan scheme for third level students in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13588/12]

The reality of the economic situation and the public expenditure corrections which must be made in the coming years present challenges across all areas of public expenditure, including higher education. Moreover, the projected growth in demand for higher education over the next two decades creates further challenges for funding. Careful planning and consideration of available evidence will allow us to develop policy options so that the system can meet those challenges in the difficult years ahead.

At my request the Higher Education Authority (HEA) completed an initial study late last year on sustainability of the current funding system for higher education. The HEA report outlines the scale of recent reductions in funding and growth in student numbers, and provides some evidence on the possible impacts of this on quality of provision. However, the HEA has emphasised that the report is preliminary only and that substantial additional work now needs to be undertaken before comprehensive proposals as to how we can sustainably fund higher education into the future can be developed. The HEA is continuing its work in this area and further advice is expected later this year.

The implementation issues associated with introducing a student loan scheme were previously assessed by the Department of Education and Skills in the context of policy options for new forms of student contribution. A July 2009 technical report on these policy options, including the introduction of a loan scheme, is published on the Department's website.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

179 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider the points raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding teachers allowances and qualification allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13590/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

221 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider reversing cuts to new teachers (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14300/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 and 221 together.

A public service-wide review of allowances, announced by the Government as part of Budget 2012, is currently being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Under Circular 70/2011 teachers who had been engaged in a public sector teaching post on or before 4 December 2011 are eligible to retain the qualification allowances they were entitled to be in receipt of on that date. Such teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011. The position of teachers who, on 5 December 2011, were undertaking courses will be considered in the context of the review. Teachers who were appointed to teaching for the first time on or after 5 December 2011 but before 1 February 2012 are eligible for allowances on the basis of their qualifications at entry to the profession up to a maximum of the allowance which had been applicable to an honours primary degree.

Circular 3/2012 provides that allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries; i.e. those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012. Examples of such allowances include any form of qualification allowance or the supervision and substitution payment paid to teachers, and the secretary to the Board of Management allowance paid to school principals. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances. These decisions were taken pending the outcome of the public service-wide review of allowances due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. Without immediate action, this upward pressure would have cancelled out the savings made elsewhere in the education system and would bring about even harsher adjustments to schools and services. I am not in a position to comment further on the position in relation to teacher allowances until the outcome of the public service-wide review of allowances is known.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

180 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a building grant application will be approved in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13602/12]

I can confirm that my Department is in receipt of an application for Capital funding for additional accommodation at the school referred to by the Deputy. The application is currently being considered and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as this process is completed.

Schools Amalgamation

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

181 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received proposals in relation to the realignment or amalgamation of two schools (details supplied) in County Kildare; if he intends making any recommendations in relation to these two schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13609/12]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has no record of receiving proposals in relation to the realignment or amalgamation of the two schools to which he refers. It is open to the schools in question to furnish details of their proposals to the Department for consideration.

Schools Refurbishment

Joe Carey

Question:

182 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the application under emergency funding in respect of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13614/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme to carry out various improvement works to their school building. As the scope of works for which funding is sought is outside the terms of the scheme it cannot be considered for funding. The school authority has been informed of this decision.

Education and Training Boards

Niall Collins

Question:

183 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a copy of the code of practice for the governance of education and training boards can be furnished to this Deputy. [13682/12]

Education and Training Boards will take over the work of vocational education committees and will have an expanded role in the delivery of further education and training across the country. In October 2011 the General Scheme of an Education and Training Boards Bill was referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education. The General Scheme was also published at that time. Following discussions with my Department and relevant stakeholders, the committee prepared a report which I responded to at a meeting of the committee on 25 January 2012. The General Scheme has now been referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government for formal drafting.

Given that education and training boards have not been established at this time, a code of practice for their governance has not been prepared. However, there is a code of governance in place in respect of vocational education committees since 2005, issued under Circular F11/05, a copy of which is attached to this answer. Discussions are ongoing between my Department and the Irish Vocational Education Association in relation to a revision of the code of governance for the sector, taking into account recent amendments required by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

School Staffing

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

184 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give the full allocation of 0.2 per class teacher learning support provision afforded to boys-only and mixed schools to girls-only schools under DEIS band 2 in view of the fact that the girls in these disadvantaged schools have a higher prevalence of learning difficulties than children in mainstream schools; if he will consider the unique situation of a school (details supplied) in County Donegal, a DEIS band 2 school, which is due to lose two learning support posts, as a result of the revised general allocation model, with the loss of one of these posts solely due to the reduced allocation, 0.16 hours, and the rounding down to the nearest 0.2, for girls-only schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13683/12]

Denis Naughten

Question:

202 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional financial provision which has been made by him to cover transport costs on foot of changes to the allocation of resource and learning support teachers in rural schools; and if he has assessed the loss of pupil contact time on foot of these changes. [14010/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 202 together.

The staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012 which is available on my Department's website. This includes the detail of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the GAM (learning support) allocation for all schools. This inevitably involves changes to existing clustering arrangements whereby a teacher is shared between schools. A further change is that schools in any locality are being empowered to cluster and arrange their GAM resources in a manner that best suits their local needs. This should be completed by schools by 16 March.

There are also new and separate arrangements for how resource hours for individual pupils are converted into teaching posts in schools. The requirement for resource hours in a school varies from year to year depending on the number, if any, of its pupils with autism etc. Small schools generally have a lower requirement for resource hours. The new arrangements take account of the later timescale for the allocation of these hours necessitated by individual assessment by the NCSE. All of the changes are designed to enable a more efficient operation of the teacher redeployment and recruitment and to reduce the impact of travel time between schools where teachers are shared.

My Department will be working with schools and the relevant education partners to ensure that the new arrangements operate as efficiently as possible. As the process proceeds this work can take account of any appropriate local arrangements that might be made to further optimise travel arrangements. The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in Primary Circular 0007/2012. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed for mainstream classroom teachers and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Higher Education Grants

Alan Farrell

Question:

185 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the higher education grants in respect of postgraduate students for the coming academic year in terms of eligibility and means testing, in view of the fact that many prospective students are now applying for postgraduate courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13694/12]

My priority as Minister for Education and Skills is to preserve access to undergraduate higher education courses despite the difficult circumstances in our public finances. As a result, no changes were made to the eligibility criteria for undergraduate students in the recent Budget. It is also worth emphasising that 41% of all undergraduate students currently receive a grant and pay no student contributions. Nevertheless, in the context of the necessary but difficult expenditure reduction measures announced in Budget 2012, new students entering postgraduate courses from the 2012/13 academic year onwards will not be entitled to any maintenance payment under the Student Grant Scheme. Existing postgraduate students will not be affected. However, those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme.

In access terms, the requirement to pay a fee is considered to be a greater obstacle to entry than lack of maintenance support at postgraduate level. This is why I opted to maintain the fee-payment ahead of maintenance payments for postgraduate students. In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. My Department estimates this will help an additional 4,000 postgraduate students. However, there will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. The income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year.

In addition to this, the Student Assistance Fund will continue to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need. Tax relief is also available on postgraduate tuition fees. While it is regrettable that any changes need to be made to student support, I believe this approach will continue to provide resources for a relatively wide number of post-graduate students and allow us to maintain the high level of supports provided to undergraduate students.

School Staffing

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

186 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) in respect of a school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13702/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

222 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the special circumstances of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry in which the teacher numbers will have decreased from nine to seven in two years, while the pupil population has increased over the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14308/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 222 together.

The staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012 which is available on my Department's website. This includes the detail of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the GAM (learning support) allocation for all schools. This inevitably involves changes to existing clustering arrangements whereby a teacher is shared between schools. A further change is that schools in any locality are being empowered to cluster and arrange their GAM resources in a manner that best suits their local needs. This should be completed by schools by 16 March.

There are also new and separate arrangements for how resource hours for individual pupils are converted into teaching posts in schools. The requirement for resource hours in a school varies from year to year depending on the number, if any, of its pupils with autism etc. Small schools generally have a lower requirement for resource hours. The new arrangements take account of the later timescale for the allocation of these hours necessitated by individual assessment by the NCSE. All of the changes are designed to enable a more efficient operation of the teacher allocation and redeployment process in the new climate of a fixed ceiling of teacher numbers.

The staffing circular 0007/2012 also includes details of an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. Schools must also submit to my Department by 16 March, 2012 a redeployment form for any teacher surplus to requirements who is eligible to be placed on the redeployment panel. It is intended that the Appeal Board meeting will take place on Wednesday 18 April, 2012 which will be prior to the release of the main redeployment panel and allow for any impact of the Board's decision on redeployment panels to be effected. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until later in 2012. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Higher Education Grants

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

187 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills how he intends to deal with those persons who deliberately and fraudulently under-report assets and income in order to avail of free third level fees and maintenance grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13714/12]

With the passage of the Student Support Act in 2011, specific offences and penalties were introduced relating to the provision of false or misleading information in the context of a student grant application. Under Section 23 of the Act, a person who furnishes information to an awarding authority which is false or misleading or who is reckless as to whether it is so is guilty of an offence, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to €5,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months or both, or on conviction on indictment for a fine of up to €5,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years or both. Such persons will also be ineligible to apply for a grant for a period of 10 years following conviction under the Act. The assessment of means for grants purposes is based on gross income — the value of assets is not currently taken into account. Awarding authorities are obliged to satisfy themselves beyond doubt that an acceptable degree of proof under all aspects of the scheme, including reckonable income, has been submitted by the grant applicant. The Free Fees Initiative is not a means-tested scheme.

Departmental Reports

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

188 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the national languages educational report, as recommended by the Council of Europe in 2008, will be published. [13720/12]

The Language Education Policy Profile for Ireland was published jointly by this Department and the Council of Europe in 2008. On the foot of the profile, a Working Group was set up to consider the main recommendations of the profile and to draft proposals for consideration by the Department. These proposals are still under consideration.

Vocational Education Committees

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

189 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department’s Circular 0003/2012 is applicable to the allowance of vocational education committee chief executive officers. [13745/12]

Circular 0003/2012 stipulates that allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries; i.e. those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012. Chief Executive Officers who are appointed in a temporary acting capacity after this date will not qualify for payment of an allowance in respect of the discharge of the role of Secretary to a Board of Management of a Comprehensive School or for the role of Transport Liaison Officer. Newly appointed acting CEOs may qualify for the payment of an acting-up/higher duties allowance for the duration of a specified temporary period. This will not confer any entitlement to the higher position and/or higher duties allowance when the temporary period expires.

School Staffing

Dan Neville

Question:

190 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills when will the appeals board dealing with appeals for staffing in primary schools be making its deliberations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13749/12]

The staffing schedule, Circular 0007/2012 includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in Primary Circular 0007/2012 which is available on the Department website. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. Schools must also submit to my Department by 16 March, 2012 a redeployment form for any teacher surplus to requirements who is eligible to be placed on the redeployment panel. It is intended that the Appeal Board meeting will take place on Wednesday 18 April, 2012 which will be prior to the release of the main redeployment panel and allow for any impact of the Board's decision on redeployment panels to be effected. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

State Examinations

Robert Dowds

Question:

191 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider holding the practical components of the main State examinations during an extended Easter break in order to avoid the expense of employing substitutes for teachers who are conducting exams; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13757/12]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations, determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations and making arrangements for the marking of work presented for examination. In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Schools Refurbishment

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

192 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the procurement process for the proposed refurbishment and extension of a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; the next steps that are required towards appointing a contractor for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13758/12]

My Department is currently awaiting receipt of the Tender Report from the Board of Management and their Design Team. Assuming no issues arise with the Tender Report when received, the project will progress to the award stage and then construction.

School Curriculum

Derek Nolan

Question:

193 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current stage of development by the National Council for Curriculum Assessment of the implementation of Social, Personal and Health Education at senior cycle syllabus level; when he envisages it being implemented as part of the senior cycle curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13783/12]

A curriculum framework for SPHE as a senior cycle subject was submitted by the NCCA to my Department in mid 2008. A copy of the curriculum framework is available on the NCCA Website (www.ncca.ie). However, the Department is not in a position to proceed with its implementation in the current budgetary climate. The priority in this area is to continue to enhance the implementation of SPHE at junior cycle and to ensure that all schools implement the Relationships and Sexuality Education programme which is already required in senior cycle.

State Examinations

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

194 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider introducing physical education as an exam subject for the junior certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13823/12]

I fully appreciate the importance of Physical Education in promoting positive well being, and mental and physical health in schools, and the role this plays in supporting student achievement. As part of the revised Junior Cycle framework, there are 24 statements of learning which set out what students should learn in Junior Cycle. One of the statements of learning provides that, at the end of Junior Cycle, students should be able to participate in physical activity confidently and competently. In addition, as part of the Junior Cycle Review there will be an opportunity for schools to provide short courses which can be assessed as part of the Junior Certificate. Short courses will generally be locally developed, of 100 hours duration and will be assessed by means of a portfolio. There will be scope under these arrangements for schools to extend the provision for sports and PE, including as part of the Junior Certificate qualification, should they wish to do so.

Irish Language

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

195 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it is the right of Irish children to have their education through Irish if they or their parents wish it; and if its his intention to vindicate this right. [13838/12]

Primary education has a pivotal role in the preservation and expansion of the first official language. The promotion of the Irish language has been an important aim of successive Irish Governments and its place in our education system has been consistently protected. This is reflected in the fact that in recent years a significant number of new gaelscoileanna have been recognised by the Department of Education and Skills, which brings the total number of Gaelscoileanna to 141, with a combined enrolment of 29,675 pupils in the 2010-11 school year. In addition, there are 106 Gaeltacht all-Irish primary schools with a total enrolment of 7,302 pupils in the 2010-11 school year.

As the Deputy will be aware, I announced in June 2011 that 20 new primary and 20 new post-primary schools are to be established up to 2017 across a number of locations. I also announced new arrangements for the recognition and determination of patronage of these new primary and post-primary schools. The new arrangements published by my Department provide a balanced approach to allow applications to be made by prospective patrons for the establishment of schools. The criteria to be used in deciding patronage of the new schools place a particular emphasis on parental demand for plurality and diversity of patronage, which also includes preference for all-Irish school provision.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, which is a key objective of the programme for Government, was officially launched in April 2011. The outcome of the forum will inform me on the practicality of how transfer and divesting of patronage would operate for individual primary schools in communities where it is appropriate and necessary to take such an initiative. It will also inform me on how such transfer and divesting can be advanced to ensure that demands for diversity of patronage, including from an Irish language perspective, can be identified and delivered in areas where parental and community demand is greatest.

I also expect that the report of the forum will also include recommendations on how demand for all-Irish primary education can be met in areas where demographic factors would not justify the establishment of new primary schools. The advisory group appointed to convene the forum held a number of public meetings during June and November 2011. The group sought and received submissions from the education stakeholder groups and the public as part of its work. It is now finalising its report and I expect to receive it shortly.

School Staffing

Seamus Healy

Question:

196 Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reverse the loss of eight teaching posts, approximately one third of staff, at a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary in view of the consequences for the education of pupils at the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13881/12]

Seán Crowe

Question:

205 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify whether a school (details supplied) is to lose eight teaching staff posts at the start of the new school year. [14063/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 205 together.

The staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012, which is available on my Department's website. This includes the detail of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the GAM (learning support) allocation for all schools. This inevitably involves changes to existing clustering arrangements whereby a teacher is shared between schools. A further change is that schools in any locality are being empowered to cluster and arrange their GAM resources in a manner that best suits their local needs. This should be completed by schools by 16 March.

There are also new and separate arrangements for how resource hours for individual pupils are converted into teaching posts in schools. The requirement for resource hours in a school varies from year to year depending on the number, if any, of its pupils with autism etc. Small schools generally have a lower requirement for resource hours. The new arrangements take account of the later timescale for the allocation of these hours necessitated by individual assessment by the NCSE. All of the changes are designed to enable a more efficient operation of the teacher allocation and redeployment process in the new climate of a fixed ceiling of teacher numbers.

The Deputies will be aware that Budget 2012 provided for the phased withdrawal of approximately 428 posts allocated to some schools under disadvantage programmes prior to the introduction of the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) Initiative in 2005. As already announced the withdrawal of 192 posts from primary schools outside DEIS Band 1 and 2 and from DEIS second level schools will proceed, including the 38 posts from 15 Non DEIS schools, which includes the school referred to by the Deputies.

The staffing circular 0007/2012 also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. The existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable limited phasing arrangements for schools where the combination of budget and reform measures impact on a particularly adverse manner on a school's overall allocation. Schools such as the school referred to by the Deputies that are due to lose 3 or more posts as a result of a combination of the budget and reform measures will be able to apply to the Staffing Appeals Board with a view to seeking to have a portion of the loss in posts deferred to the 2013/14 school year. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. Schools must submit to my Department by 16 March, 2012 a redeployment form for any teacher surplus to requirements who is eligible to be placed on the redeployment panel. It is intended that the Appeal Board meeting will take place on Wednesday 18 April, 2012 which will be prior to the release of the main redeployment panel and allow for any impact of the Board's decision on redeployment panels to be effected.

The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until later in 2012. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

School Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

197 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will detail plans to replace prefab accommodation at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13886/12]

As the Deputy is aware I recently announced an initiative to replace rented prefabs in schools. Almost 200 schools have been offered an opportunity to replace rented prefabs with permanent accommodation. The school referred to by the Deputy is one of the schools being offered grant aid to replace rented prefabs.

Brendan Smith

Question:

198 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to build a new primary school at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13887/12]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to Scoil Caitlín Maude. I can confirm that my Department is currently examining an application for improved accommodation from the school in question. So that the matter can be considered fully, a technical assessment of the site on which the school is located is required. Officials from my Department will be in further contact with the school authorities in this regard.

Special Educational Needs

Finian McGrath

Question:

199 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the DEIS schools review. [13957/12]

While a key priority for me is to continue to prioritise and target resources at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage, the current economic climate and the challenge to meet significant targets on reducing public expenditure limits opportunities and means that there is not capacity to provide for additionality to the DEIS programme, including the selection of further schools. An ongoing evaluation of DEIS has been underway since the rollout of supports commenced in 2006 by the Educational Research Centre (ERC), the aim of which is to monitor the implementation of the programme and assess its impact on students and schools at primary and post primary levels.

In addition, the Inspectorate of my Department conducted evaluations of planning in a sample of 36 DEIS schools, 18 primary and 18 post-primary. A national composite report on the effectiveness of DEIS planning in primary and post-primary schools has been completed and this report along with the ERC report have been published. My Department will consider fully these evaluation reports before any decisions can be made regarding the future of DEIS.

Schools Refurbishment

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

200 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for an extension to a school (details supplied); if he will sanction funding for this much needed building to properly accommodate the needs of the school which are inadequately met at the moment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13960/12]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding to provide a new school building. In accordance with the published criteria for large scale building projects, the project has been assigned a Band 2 rating. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. It is not possible, therefore, to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project, referred to by the Deputy, at this time.

School Staffing

Denis Naughten

Question:

201 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will list the schools in County Roscommon and County Leitrim which are set to lose a teacher next September due to the revised pupil teacher ratio for rural schools; if he will amend the review process to allow schools which would have retained a teacher on the pupil teacher ratio in place on 30 September 2011, to retain that teacher for September 2012, in view of the significant changes that will result on foot of the pending school transport changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14009/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The relevant appointment and retention figures for mainstream staffing for the coming school year have been published on the Department's website. However, the staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of other budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. The reform of the allocation process is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools so there will inevitably be some schools that will lose posts and some schools that will gain posts.

My Department has expanded the existing appeals process so that it is accessible to the small schools that are losing a classroom post as a result of the budget measure. They won't lose their classroom post if any of them are projecting increased enrolments in September 2012 that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term. The detailed arrangements are set out in the Department's Staffing Circular that is now published on my Department's website. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeals Board is 23 March, 2012.

The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed for mainstream classroom teachers and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered. In relation to primary school transport, Budget 2012 changes were confined to primary school transport charges. Other changes to the primary scheme commencing this September were announced in Budget 2011 and derive from recommendations in the School Transport Value for Money review. Given the requirement to obtain savings under the four year national recovery plan there is no scope to review these changes.

Question No. 202 answered with Question No. 184.

Schools Building Programme

Seamus Healy

Question:

203 Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he intends to make funding available for the construction of a Gaelscoil (details supplied) in view of the fact that this Gaelscoil has been waiting 18 years for a new school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14030/12]

I can confirm that a site has been purchased for the Gaelscoil referred to by the Deputy and that planning permission has been sought for the site. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. It is not possible, therefore, to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

204 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teachers who have been classified at the incorrect rates for PRSI and superannuation contributions by his Department; and the date on which the misclassification error was first identified in his Department. [14056/12]

In a small number of cases, teachers have been placed in the incorrect class of PRSI. These situations are comparatively rare and have tended to come to light at the point of retirement. In 1,200 cases of retirements of teachers examined recently 3 cases were identified where teachers were on the incorrect rate of PRSI. The approach of my Department is to rectify individual cases as they arise. Staff of my Department are liaising with staff from the Department of Social Protection on this issue to ensure that the matter is rectified and any outstanding amount refunded to the teacher with the minimum amount of disruption.

Question No. 205 answered with Question No. 196.

Book Rental Schemes

Patrick Nulty

Question:

206 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an estimate of the cost of the establishment of a fully stocked book rental scheme for all second level schools in the State system for all years and for all subjects; if he will provide an estimate of the ongoing running costs of such a national scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14121/12]

Patrick Nulty

Question:

207 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an estimate of the cost of the establishment of a fully stocked book rental scheme for all primary level schools in the State system for all years and for all subjects; if he will provide an estimate of the ongoing running costs of such a national scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14122/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 206 and 207 together.

It is not possible to state what the cost of the establishment of a fully stocked book rental scheme for all primary and second level schools in the State system for all years and for all subjects would be due to the fact that not all schools provide or use the same textbooks and not all schools are the same size. There are differences in the cost of books from school to school, some schools use digital texts, some include workbooks in book rental schemes while others do not. However, one estimate available to my Department suggests that the overall size of the educational book market In Ireland is approximately €60 million. The book grant which my Department provides to schools is in the order of €15 million per annum. Very often the cost of books includes costs charged to students for photocopied sheets, materials for art and practical subjects and for copies, diaries, homework journals and stationery. In addition, most schools that operate a book rental scheme introduce the scheme on a phased basis. Ongoing running costs depend on the life span of each book and the costs of maintenance and replacement of books. These too vary from school to school.

School Patronage

Anne Ferris

Question:

208 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made on patronage for a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14123/12]

As the Deputy is aware, in June 2011 I announced that 20 new post-primary schools are to be established up to 2017 across a number of locations to cater for increasing demographics. This announcement included a proposal to establish a new post-primary school in the area referred to by the Deputy. This school is to be established in September 2014. The closing date for receipt of applications for patronage of the post-primary schools to be established in 2013 and 2014 was Friday 24th February 2012.

The Forward Planning Section of my Department will assess all applications in line with the announced criteria and will prepare a report for submission to the New Schools Establishment Group, who will in turn submit their report to me for final consideration and decision. Details of the new arrangements for patronage of new schools and the criteria for deciding on patronage of these new schools are available on my Department's website,www.education.ie.

Third Level Courses

Clare Daly

Question:

209 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will inquire with the Higher Education and Training Awards Council if, and if so, the reason, it approved the religion module in the higher diploma in arts in primary education in a college (details supplied) which contained statements that have caused extreme offence in the atheist community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14128/12]

I am aware of the issue that the Deputy has raised. The content of course curricula in higher education institutes is a matter for the providers themselves. I understand that the college in question has met with representatives of Atheist Ireland in recent days to discuss the issues raised by the Deputy. HETAC validates programmes of education and training leading to its awards. As part of the validation process, a panel examines and satisfies itself of the programme content. Programmes are subject to ongoing quality assurance reviews.

In relation to the primary school curriculum, while religion is recognised as a curricular area, the content of the religious curriculum is a matter for the patron of each school. As the Deputy is aware, the vast majority of primary schools in Ireland have religious patronage, and this is reflected in the course content and teaching practice placements provided in programmes of primary initial teacher education. The aim of these programmes is to provide the school system with an adequate number of teachers who have the necessary qualifications, skills and knowledge to teach the prescribed curriculum in all settings.

All teacher education programmes in Ireland that lead to registration must have current professional accreditation, which is the statutory responsibility of the Teaching Council. Professional accreditation is a judgement as to whether a programme prepares one for entry into the profession. In accordance with Section 38 of the Teaching Council Act 2001, the Council is empowered to review and professionally accredit programmes of initial teacher education and procedures are in place for this purpose. Accordingly, I have brought the matter to the attention of the Council for its consideration and I understand that it is making contact with the college concerned.

School Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

210 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of appropriate accommodation for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14129/12]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department recently provided funding to facilitate the relocation of the school to alternative premises.

Higher Education Grants

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

211 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a student maintenance grant application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14132/12]

The processing of student grants is carried out by local grant awarding authorities — VECs and local authorities. Officials in my Department contacted the relevant VEC, the awarding authority in this case, who confirmed supporting documentation required to process the candidate's grant application remains outstanding. They wrote to the candidate on 26th July 2011, 29th September 2011 and 2nd February 2012. In the letter of 2nd February, 2012 the candidate was advised that all outstanding documentation required to process the grant application must be submitted by 24th February, 2012 to avoid the application being closed. To date, the documentation has not been received by the VEC. If the applicant has been deemed ineligible for a student grant by the grant awarding authority that decision may be appealed to the awarding authority's appeals officer. Where the appeals officer decides to reject the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department or the independent appeals board, as appropriate.

Special Educational Needs

Shane Ross

Question:

212 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take in the case of a school (details supplied) which has had various forms of funding and support cut. [14144/12]

The staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012 which is available on my Department's website. This includes the detail of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the GAM (learning support) allocation for all schools. This inevitably involves changes to existing clustering arrangements whereby a teacher is shared between schools. A further change is that schools in any locality are being empowered to cluster and arrange their GAM resources in a manner that best suits their local needs. This should be completed by schools by 16 March. There are also new and separate arrangements for how resource hours for individual pupils are converted into teaching posts in schools. The requirement for resource hours in a school varies from year to year depending on the number, if any, of its pupils with autism etc. Small schools generally have a lower requirement for resource hours. The new arrangements take account of the later timescale for the allocation of these hours necessitated by individual assessment by the NCSE.

All of the changes are designed to enable a more efficient operation of the teacher allocation and redeployment process in the new climate of a fixed ceiling of teacher numbers. The Deputy will be aware that Budget 2012 provided for the phased withdrawal of approximately 428 posts allocated to some schools under disadvantage programmes prior to the introduction of the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) Initiative in 2005. As already announced the withdrawal of 192 posts from primary schools outside DEIS Band 1 and 2 and from DEIS second level schools will proceed, including the 38 posts from 15 Non DEIS schools, which includes the school referred to by the Deputy. The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in Primary Circular 0007/2012.

The existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable limited phasing arrangements for schools where the combination of budget and reform measures impact on a particularly adverse manner on a school's overall allocation. Schools such as the school referred to by the Deputies that are due to lose 3 or more posts as a result of a combination of the budget and reform measures will be able to apply to the Staffing Appeals Board with a view to seeking to have a portion of the loss in posts deferred to the 2013/14 school year. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. Schools must submit to my Department by 16 March, 2012 a redeployment form for any teacher surplus to requirements who is eligible to be placed on the redeployment panel. It is intended that the Appeal Board meeting will take place on Wednesday 18 April, 2012 which will be prior to the release of the main redeployment panel and allow for any impact of the Board's decision on redeployment panels to be effected.The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until later in 2012. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Schools Refurbishment

Brendan Griffin

Question:

213 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make a positive decision on an appeal in respect of emergency works for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry on health and safety grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14157/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme to carry out works to the foul sewer and tiling of toilet areas. As the scope of works for which funding is sought is outside the terms of the scheme it cannot be considered for funding. The school authority has been informed of this decision.

Public Service Staff

Pat Breen

Question:

214 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the number of public servants from County Clare who retired as part of the Croke Park early retirement scheme from positions in his Department or from State bodies under the aegis of his Department. [14199/12]

My Department has one office base in Clare located at Ennis which accommodates staff from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). No staff that were based in Clare retired this year prior to the 29th, February 2012. The final number of teachers in Primary Secondary, Community and Comprehensive schools who have actually retired will not be available until all the retirement applications have been fully processed. For example the number of teachers who applied to retire in the period 1 January to 29 February 2012 is 1,166. Information received from the Vocational Education Sector throughout the country indicates that 220 teachers have applied to retire in that sector during that period. When this work is concluded work will commence on compiling detailed statistical data on the number of teachers who retired and this will be published on my Department's website. It is important to note that schools may fill vacancies arising from retirements.

School Enrolments

Mattie McGrath

Question:

215 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a section 29 appeal will be accepted from a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who was refused enrolment to a school; the arrangements that will be put in place to ensure that this child can return to school without any further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14210/12]

I understand from my officials that the student in question was refused enrolment to a school which is maintained by South Tipperary VEC.

Under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, in the case of a school which is established or maintained by a vocational education committee an appeal against the decision of the board of such school shall lie, in the first instance to the vocational educational committee and thereafter to the Secretary General of my Department.

My officials understand from South Tipperary VEC that the appeal was not admitted due to delay in receipt of the appeal. Prior to admitting the appeal to the Secretary General, my officials are liaising with South Tipperary VEC in relation to its decision not to admit the appeal. I have asked my officials to deal with this case as a matter of urgency.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB can be contacted at NEWB, Heritage Business Park, Bessboro Road, Mahon, Cork or by telephone at 021-4536314.

Schools Building Projects

Joan Collins

Question:

216 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the five year school building programme will be announced; if there is a shortlist; and the schools included in that shortlist. [14221/12]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I announced details of the Five Year Plan yesterday. The Plan contains details of 219 new major school building projects which will begin construction over the next five years as part of a €2 billion capital investment programme. Details of the projects listed on the Plan may be viewed on my Department's websitewww.education.ie.

John McGuinness

Question:

217 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for a new school building for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14223/12]

John McGuinness

Question:

218 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the development of the school site occupied by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14224/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 218 together.

I can confirm that my Department is currently examining an application for improved accommodation from the school to which the Deputy refers.

So that the matter can be considered fully, a technical assessment of the site on which the school is located is required. Officials from my Department will be in further contact with the school authorities in this regard.

Brendan Smith

Question:

219 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage the proposal to provide a new second-level school at a centre (details supplied) is at; when this project will proceed to the next stage; the likely timescale for construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14266/12]

As the Deputy is aware, on Monday 12th March 2012, I announced details of 219 new major school building projects where construction is expected to commence over the next five years as part of a €2 billion capital investment programme.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the project to which he refers was included in this announcement.

Information in respect of all schools included in the Five Year Plan is available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie.

School Patronage

Brendan Smith

Question:

220 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects to publish the report of the forum on patronage and pluralism in the primary sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14298/12]

The Minister for Education and Skills is proposing to publish the Report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector in April.

Question No. 221 answered with Question No. 179.
Question No. 222 answered with Question No. 186.

Departmental Expenditure

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

223 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form the annual amount spent on security measures at private homes and constituency offices of Taoisigh year on year since January 2000 to December 2011. [13786/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

230 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form the annual amount spent on security measures at private homes and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department year on year since January 2000 to December 2011. [13799/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 230 together.

I regret that the relevant information could not be collated in the time available for written reply. A response will issue directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Contracts

Seamus Kirk

Question:

224 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if for the purpose of stimulating employment he will consider asking the troika if it will consider a weighting in favour of Irish companies for a wide range of contracts which are advertised by Departments and State bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14248/12]

It is a basic principle of EU law that between citizens and businesses within the Union there should not be discrimination on grounds of nationality. This principle of non-discrimination is one of the cornerstones of EU procurement rules. The purpose of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. It would be a breach of the rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular candidates on grounds of nationality and there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules. It is important to realise that the open market regime offers critical opportunities for Irish companies to win business abroad and reliable EU studies indicate that many Irish businesses are successful in this regard.

I am very aware that public procurement can be an important source of business for local enterprises. In general, SMEs' flexibility and ability to respond speedily to requirements can be advantageous in competing for local contracts. Within the context of the procurement guidelines from my Department require public bodies to promote participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in the award of public contracts. The guidelines set out positive measures that contracting authorities are to take to promote SME involvement in a manner that is consistent with the principles and rules of the existing public procurement regulatory regime. The guidance also highlights practices that are to be avoided because they can unjustifiably hinder small businesses in competing for public contracts. The key provisions of the guidance include:

supplies and general services contracts with an estimated value of €25,000 or more to be advertised on thewww.etenders.gov.ie website;

less use of "restrictive" tendering procedures and greater use of "open" tendering;

ensuring that the levels set by contracting authorities for suitability criteria are justified and proportionate to the needs of the contract;

sub-dividing larger requirements into lots where this is practical and can be done without compromising efficiency and value for money;

the needs and possibilities for small businesses to compete and supply to be taken into account when setting up panels/framework arrangements;

encouragement of small companies to combine with others to make a joint bid for a contract that they might not be in a position to perform on their own.

Both the National Procurement Service and the development agencies, such as Enterprise Ireland, offer training and support to businesses in order to raise awareness of public procurement opportunities and to improve the capacity of indigenous firms to compete effectively for these opportunities.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

225 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide details on the number and names of all semi-State companies and statutory agencies under the remit of his Department; if he will provide a list of all members of the board of such organisations for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; if he will provide a list of all expenses associated with membership of these boards on an individual basis for the relevant years; if he will provide information relating to the profession or occupation of all such members of the relevant State companies and statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13510/12]

In response to the Deputy's question An Post National Lottery is the only semi-State company or statutory agency which comes under the remit of my Department. Details in respect of the Board of An Post National Lottery are contained in the following table.

Please note that An Post National Lottery was under the remit of the Department of Finance until March 2011.

Details supplied are in respect of 31 December for each year.

Year

Members

2007

Mr Donal Connell (Chairperson)Mr James HylandDermot GriffinNiamh McGowanMicheál Ó MuircheartaighBarbara PattonVacancy

2008

Mr Donal Connell (Chairperson)Mr James HylandDermot GriffinNiamh McGowanMicheál Ó MuircheartaighBarbara PattonOliver Wilkinson

2009

Mr Donal Connell (Chairperson)Mr James HylandDermot GriffinNiamh McGowanMicheál Ó MuircheartaighBarbara PattonOliver Wilkinson

2010

Mr Donal Connell (Chairperson)Mr James HylandDermot GriffinCaroline MurphyMicheál Ó MuircheartaighBarbara PattonOliver Wilkinson

2011

Mr Donal Connell (Chairperson)Dermot GriffinCaroline MurphyMicheál Ó MuircheartaighOliver Wilkinson2 Vacancies

Expenses Paid to National Lottery Company Directors

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Dermot Griffin

8,142

7,388

2,002

4,198

6,753

Jim Hyland

2,856

4,232

3,857

2,579

4,198

Barbara Patton

0

219

0

0

0

Oliver Wilkinson

3,677

2,284

4,202

2,823

0

Paraic O’Rourke

2,235

3,687

14,674

14,123

10,061

11,835

14,638

Paraic O'Rourke served on the Board on 1 January 2007 but was not a Board Member on 1 December 2007.

Profession or occupation of Board members

Donal Connell — Chief Executive of An Post,

Dermot Griffin — Chief Executive of An Post National Lottery Company,

James Hyland — Partner, Hyland Johnson Murray, Chartered Accountants,

Paraic O'Rourke — businessman and company director,

Caroline Murphy — broadcaster and organisational psychologist,

Niamh McGowan — barrister-at-law and management consultant,

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh — retired broadcaster and teacher,

Barbara Patton — business marketing consultant,

Oliver Wilkinson — retired Dáil Deputy.

Rights of Way

Michael McNamara

Question:

226 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to acquire a public right of way at Leamanagh Castle which is situated at the intersection of the R476 Corofin to Killinaboy road and the R480 road to Ballyvaughan, at the southern boundary of the Burren in County Clare, in order that visitors once again may appreciate the unique architectural features of this national monument; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13549/12]

Leamanagh Castle is under State guardianship and is in the care of the Office of Public Works. The Castle is situated on privately owned lands at Killinaboy, County Clare. As access is in private ownership it is not anticipated that access by the public to the Castle will be possible for the time being.

National Monuments

Michael McNamara

Question:

227 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the date by which the setting and display of medieval carved stone at Ennis Friary, Ennis, County Clare, will be open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13550/12]

Works on the display of the medieval carved stone have commenced. Specialist stone masonry skills are necessary to complete the moving and installation of the carved stone on to the specially designed plinths.

It is expected that this work will be finished during this summer.

Legislative Programme

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

228 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the date on which the Construction Contracts Bill will be brought to Dáil Éireann for Second Stage. [13601/12]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In this regard, my colleague Minister of State Mr Brian Hayes has been working with Senator Feargal Quinn to develop the Senator's private member's Construction Contracts Bill — which had passed all stages in the Seanad and had moved onto the Dáil order paper — into a robust piece of legislation.

In order to address a number of issues that were raised during the consultation on the Bill a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) was carried out. It found that legislation is desirable to improve payment practices and to allow swift resolution of payment disputes by way of adjudication, allowing projects to be completed without wasting time and money in litigation. The RIA was completed and published last September. The Report is available on my Department's website:www.per.gov.ie/reports.

Following the RIA, Minister Hayes brought proposals to progress this legislation to Government. These proposals have been agreed by Government and it is expected that the legislation will proceed in the Dáil shortly. It is essential that the solution to this issue needs to be balanced so as to avoid imposing regulatory or cost burdens on parties in dispute, the State or others.

Public Sector Reform

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

229 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for promotions in the public sector within the framework of the Croke Park agreement and his reform agenda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13630/12]

The overall staffing level of the Public Service is determined within the context of the current moratorium on staffing levels with particular regard to the Employment Control Frameworks currently in place. The filling of staff vacancies through promotion or otherwise is determined to ensure that the Public Service is adequately resourced and skilled to meet strategic goals and priorities. Building on the progress achieved under the social partnership agreements — Sustaining Progress and Towards 2016 — the Croke Park Agreement recognises that merit-based, competitive promotion policies will be the norm and that promotion policies, at all levels, will be based on best practice.

Question No. 230 answered with Question No. 223.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

231 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has concluded his review of allowances and premium payments across the public service; the findings of the review; and when the allowances and premium payments will be reinstated to new beneficiaries. [13842/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

233 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he expects the public service-wide review of allowances to be completed as announced in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14302/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 233 together.

As announced in my address to Dáil Éireann on the 2012 Expenditure Estimates on 5 December 2011, public service bodies have to achieve a reduction of 5% in the cost of allowances and premium payments in 2012. Further savings are anticipated in subsequent years.

In order to facilitate the public service wide review of allowances, Departments were required to submit information, including costs, on the allowances and premium payments specific to their Department or sector, and where a Department considered it necessary to retain an allowance or a premium payment, a thorough and considered business case, before 31 January 2012. Pending completion of the review, sanction/delegated sanction for the payment of an allowance or premium payment for which a business case has not been approved by this Department to any beneficiary was withdrawn from 31 January 2012 until further notice.

I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly in relation to the findings of the review. Urgent business case requests are being processed in so far as is possible in order to ensure that the work of the public service is not unduly disrupted during the review.

National Asset Management Agency

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

232 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form a list of the public private partnership contracts awarded by the Office of Public Works to property developers whose loans have been acquired by the National Asset Management Agency, including the names of the property developers and the name of the PPP properties in question. [14297/12]

The Office of Public Works is not aware of having awarded a Public Private Partnership Contract to property developers whose loans may have been acquired by the National Asset Management Agency.

Question No. 233 answered with Question No. 231.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Gerald Nash

Question:

234 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reasons primary agricultural activities are not included in the forthcoming credit guarantee scheme; his plans to amend the scheme so that they are included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13468/12]

The Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme is to operate under the De Minimis State Aid rules as agreed by the Government in November. The De Minimis State Aid framework provides a basis for swift implementation of such a Scheme.

Operating within the scope of the De Minimis State Aid regulations places limits on the range of options available in terms of the extent and pricing of the support which can be provided. It also places some limitations on the business sectors and loan purposes which the Scheme can support. Primary production in agriculture, horticulture and fisheries are excluded from the scope of the scheme in the light of particular restrictions under the De Minimis State Aid rules.

The relevant regulations are:

Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1998/2006 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the Treaty tode minimis aid;

Commission Notice on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the EC Treaty to State aid in the form of guarantees (2008/C 155/02).

Furthermore, the Scheme is a targeted intervention to address specific market failure where a business is unable to secure lending due to a lack of security required for conventional collateral based lending.

The evidence is that currently, the agricultural sector is not experiencing a significant market failure in relation to collateral based lending in comparison to other industry sectors. The Government agreed that the absence of security was less likely to be an issue in agriculture than in many other sectors, as at least for owner farmers there would be the underlying asset of the farmland and buildings, and thus there would be proportionately fewer agriculture borrowing propositions to which the principal underlying rationale for the Scheme would apply.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

235 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide details on the number and names of all semi-State companies and statutory agencies under the remit of his Department; if he will provide a list of all members of the board of such organisations for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; if he will provide a list of all expenses associated with membership of these boards on an individual basis for the relevant years; if he will provide information relating to the profession or occupation of all such members of the relevant State companies and statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13508/12]

The following State bodies come under the aegis of my Department and, with the exception of InterTrade Ireland, are subject to the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies:

Enterprise Ireland

Forfás

IDA Ireland

Health and Safety Authority

National Standards Authority of Ireland

InterTrade Ireland

Shannon Development

National Consumer Agency

Competition Authority

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

Science Foundation Ireland

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority

County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs)

Labour Relations Commission.

In line with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, details of Board members, including remuneration and expenses paid from 2009 onwards, are provided in the annual reports of the agencies, including InterTrade Ireland, and are available on the websites of the respective agencies.

I have referred the question to the agencies for direct reply to the Deputy in respect of any of the information requested that may not be available from their websites.

Legislative Programme

Peter Mathews

Question:

236 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the recently passed legislation on the temporary agency workers directive will be enacted to give protection to these workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13593/12]

A Bill entitled the "Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Bill, 2011" completed passage in the Dail in mid February, 2012 and commenced consideration in the Seanad on 28th February, 2012 and it is currently before that House. The Bill is a priority Bill for my Department and I expect that the Bill will be enacted by end March, 2012.

Gerald Nash

Question:

237 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if it is his intention to bring forward for ratification ILO Convention No. 189 on the rights of domestic workers; if so, when this will proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13629/12]

I welcome the successful outcome of discussions at the International Labour Conference (ILC) that lead to the adoption of a new International labour standard aimed at ensuring Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

The final text of the draft Convention was one that the Irish Government was in a position to support and the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers now becomes ILO Convention No. 189 supplemented by a Recommendation.

The issue of ratification by Ireland of this Convention is being considered in the context of our standard approach to the ratification of international instruments. In this regard, the Convention will be examined from the perspective of any changes that may be required to existing domestic legislation.

However, it is important to note that domestic workers are protected by virtue of the fact that the full suite of employment rights legislation, including that of redress for violations of their employment rights, apply to domestic workers in the same way as they apply to other categories of employees in Ireland.

A voluntary Code of Practice for Persons Employed in Other People's Homes was developed under the Industrial Relations Act 1990. The Code sets out certain employment rights and practices for persons employed in other people's homes and encourages good practice and compliance with the law in such employment situations. In any proceedings before a court, or a workplace relations dispute resolution body, a code of practice shall be admissible in evidence and any provision of the code which appears to the court, body or officer concerned to be relevant to any question arising in the proceedings shall be taken into account in determining that question.

It is also worth pointing out that NERA has been carrying out an on-going pilot programme of inspections involving domestic workers. In general, co-operation levels among employers of domestic workers was high and compliance levels were on a par with other employer/employee relationships.

Telecommunications Services

Peter Mathews

Question:

238 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on a matter regarding Internet regulation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13670/12]

As the Deputy is aware it is prohibited under existing legislation within the State to illegally hack into the wireless internet of a third party. It is a matter for the Garda Síochána to investigate and prosecute any such illegal activity involving the illegal hacking into a third parties' wireless internet.

Access to the internet is normally the subject of a contract between an individual (or entity) and an Internet Service Provider. Any issues arising between the parties regarding this access should in the first instance be dealt with in the normal course of their business agreement.

Departmental Agencies

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

239 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide details of the average cost per acre of land being sold by Shannon Development for industrial purposes in County Limerick in the years 2000 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13695/12]

Decisions relating to the sale of land for industrial purposes fall to be taken by the Board of Shannon Development in the context of the day to day management of the company and are ones for which I have no statutory responsibility.

Shannon Development has informed me that the average price per acre of land sold for industrial purposes in County Limerick in the year 2000 was €110,478.98. The company has also explained that the corresponding figure for the year 2011 cannot, due to reasons of commercial confidentiality, be disclosed at this time.

Public Service Staff

Pat Breen

Question:

240 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will report on the number of public servants from County Clare who retired as part of the Croke Park early retirement scheme from positions in his Department or from State bodies under the aegis of his Department. [14204/12]

I assume the Deputy is referring to retirements under the grace period as specified under the Public Service Pension Rights Order 2011 (S.I. No. 80 of 2011) which was signed on 23 February 2011, as there was no early retirement scheme provided for under the Croke Park Agreement.

The Public Service Pension Rights Order 2011 specified 29 February 2012 as the end date for the grace period within which pensions would be unaffected by the pay cuts introduced in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009. Between I January 2010 and 29 February 2012, 91 people retired from my Department, none of whom resided in County Clare at the time of retirement.

I have asked the agencies under the remit of my Department to respond directly to the Deputy in the matter.

Job Creation

Heather Humphreys

Question:

241 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he has taken to encourage small businesses to take on new employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14259/12]

As I have pointed out on many occasions, the Government does not create jobs — entrepreneurs and successful businesses do. However, the Government has a key role to play in providing the environment whereby businesses can start-up, expand and create jobs.

There are two major elements to the Government's response to supporting business and unemployment — the Action Plan for Jobs and "Pathways to Work".

The Action Plan includes a total of 270 specific measures to be delivered across the whole of Government. "Pathways to Work" will be delivered by the Departments of Social Protection and Education and Skills, and the relevant bodies under their aegis.

The goal of the Action Plan for Jobs is to support the creation of 100,000 net new jobs in the economy over the period 2012 to 2016, while the aim of "Pathways to Work" is to help to ensure that as many of those jobs as possible are filled by people from the Live Register. Both documents are fundamentally linked and recognise the need to reform our policies and our structures to secure long-term and lasting results for our enterprise base and for job-seekers.

The Action Plan for Jobs aims to transform the operating environment for business in order to support enterprise growth and job creation. The Government will achieve this objective by systematically removing obstacles to competitiveness, putting downward pressure on business costs, promoting innovation and trade, supporting new and existing businesses to develop and expand, and by deepening the impact of foreign direct investment in Ireland. The Government has also identified in the Action Plan a number of key sectors where Ireland can gain competitive advantage in global markets.

Access to Finance is critically important for SMEs seeking to retain existing, or recruit new, employees. Commitments in the Action Plan for Jobs include a Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme, a new Microfinance Fund and a new Development Capital Scheme will all help small and medium sized enterprises to retain and create jobs.

Other important initiatives taken by this Government since coming to office, such as the introduction of a 9% VAT rate last July on a range of services, including hotels and restaurants, and the halving of employer's PRSI for those on modest wages have all been focused on helping SMEs to retain and create jobs.

Departmental Schemes

Joe McHugh

Question:

242 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an up-to-date analysis of the rural social scheme, including a county-by-county breakdown of numbers on waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13472/12]

The purpose of the rural social scheme (RSS) is to provide income support for farmers and fisherpersons who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Persons are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff.

Overall responsibility for the operation of the RSS rests with the Department of Social Protection with day-to-day delivery and management resting with 35 implementing bodies (IBs) comprising 34 local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta. The number of participants and supervisory positions allocated to each implementing body is set out in the table below. Implementing bodies are free to recruit to any vacant position without reference to the Department. Accordingly, the Department does not maintain a central database of persons who may have been successful in a recruitment process but for whom no vacancy arises. Given the nature of the RSS, where vacancies arise, implementing bodies are required to advertise such vacancies and to conduct an open recruitment process. My Department is currently engaged in an annual process of data collection in respect of the operation of the RSS in 2011. This information will be collated and verified and will be made available by the middle of 2012. Some €45.66 million is being made available to the RSS in 2012.

TABLE — Allocation of RSS Placements

Implementing Body

Participant Quota

Supervisor Quota

Avondhu/Blackwater Partnership Ltd.

17

1

Ballyhoura Development Limited

47

2

Breffni Integrated Limited

80

4

Carlow County Development Partnership Ltd.

18

1

Cill Dara ar Aghaidh Teoranta

22

1

Clare Local Development Co. Ltd.

117

6

Co. Wicklow Community Partnership

20

1

Comhar na nOileán Teoranta

20

0

County Kilkenny LEADER Partnership Company Limited

19

1

County Sligo LEADER Partnership Co. Ltd.

124

6

Donegal Local Development Company Ltd

76

4

FORUM Connemara Ltd.

14

1

Galway Rural Development Co. Ltd.

156

8

Inishowen Development Partnership

30

2

IRD Duhallow Ltd.

58

3

Laois Community and Enterprise Development Co. Ltd.

25

1

Leitrim Integrated Development Company Ltd.

100

5

Longford Community Resources

55

3

Louth LEADER Partnership

10

0

Meath Community Rural and Social Development Partnership Ltd.

16

1

Monaghan Integrated Development Limited

40

2

North and East Kerry LEADER Partnership Teoranta

89

5

Mayo North East LEADER Partnership Co. Teo.

221

11

North Tipperary LEADER Partnership

37

2

Offaly Integrated Local Development Company Ltd.

52

3

Roscommon Integrated Development Company Ltd.

149

7

South and East Cork Area Development

8

1

South Kerry Development Partnership Ltd.

138

7

South Tipperary Development Company Limited

26

1

South West Mayo Development Company Ltd.

191

10

Údarás na Gaeltachta

437

21

Waterford LEADER Partnership Ltd.

12

0

West Cork Development Partnership Ltd.

68

3

West Limerick Resources

36

2

Westmeath Community Development Ltd.

33

2

Wexford Local Development

39

2

Totals

2,600

130

Social Welfare Code

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

243 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection if it is her policy to means test State entitlements. [13832/12]

Payments made by the Department of Social Protection are funded by social insurance contributions and by the Exchequer. One of the core principles of social insurance is that, in return for the insurance contribution, payments will be made to the insured worker in the event of prescribed contingencies arising, such as unemployment, disability or old age. It is not my policy to means test such State entitlements as to do so would undermine the insurance policy upon which they based.

Entitlements funded by the Exchequer are paid subject to a means test, with some exceptions, most notably Child Benefit. Any changes to the schemes operated by the Department, including the means testing of schemes which are not currently means tested, will be considered by the Cabinet in the context of this ongoing review of expenditure and in the context of deciding the fiscal consolidation measures to be included in Budget 2013. That consideration will be informed by, among other things, the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, which was published as part of the Budget 2012 process.

Departmental Offices

John Browne

Question:

244 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Social Protection when the FÁS office in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, will be opened on a five-day week basis, as it operates only on a three-day week currently due to lack of staff. [14316/12]

I am very conscious of the need to provide efficient and effective customer facing services at a local level for clients of the Department in Wexford and every other part of the country. However, as the Deputy will be aware, there is currently a moratorium on recruitment across the civil and public service. Where vacancies arise, I assure the Deputy that the Department is expending every effort to continue to source available staff to fill critical vacancies, including those arising from retirements, by way of redeployment, or transfer from within the Department and other Government Departments, taking account of the Employment Control Framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed, having regard to workloads, management priorities and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources with a view to providing an efficient service to those who rely on the schemes operated by the Department. At this time it is not possible to give a definitive timeline for resumption of 5 day opening in the Enniscorthy office.

In order to offer a more streamlined, efficient and integrated service to clients, the Department is undergoing a process of intensive planning and organisational change in establishing the new National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES), which will bring together the Community Welfare Service (CWS), the Employment Services and Community Employment Programmes of FÁS, the Rural Social Scheme and Community Services Programme from the former Department of Community, Equality and the Gaeltacht and the Redundancy and Insolvency Schemes from the former Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. It is the intention that the NEES will integrate all employment and benefit support services in a single delivery unit, to provide a coherent integrated and more personalised service to clients. It is hoped that this integrating process will also deliver new opportunities to support service delivery at the local level.

Departmental Schemes

Dan Neville

Question:

245 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in County Limerick who have taken up placements under the JobBridge programme since the introduction of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13465/12]

The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. The Scheme has made very significant progress to-date. Currently, in excess of 5,100 internship placements have commenced.

The number of internship placements that have commenced in Limerick City is 136. The number of internship placements that have commenced in Limerick County is 101.

Social Welfare Benefits

Finian McGrath

Question:

246 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding mortgage interest relief in respect of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [13469/12]

The person concerned was refused mortgage interest supplement on 28th February 2012 as the first mortgage was not obtained to purchase, build or repair the main residence and the second mortgage was obtained for repairs to both residence and commercial property owned at that time. A breakdown of costs and receipts for same have not been provided. No appeal has been received by the Department.

Social Welfare Code

Thomas Pringle

Question:

247 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will supply the definitive criteria for the habitual residence condition for a person who has been living in the common travel area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13471/12]

The requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit with effect from 1 May 2004. The effect of the condition is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere would not normally be entitled to social welfare assistance or child benefit payments on arrival in Ireland. Each case received for a determination on the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) is dealt with in its own right and a decision is based on application of the legislation and guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case.

There is no discrimination on grounds of nationality in social welfare legislation and to introduce such a provision would be contrary to the equality principles that Ireland has adopted in its equality legislation, the Treaties of the European Community and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and other international conventions.

The determination of a person's habitual residence is made in accordance with Section 246 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended. A person arriving in Ireland from the Common Travel Area has the right to reside, and subject to satisfying the five factors would be deemed to have fulfilled the HRC. Subsection (4) specifically directs the deciding officer to "take into consideration all the circumstances of the case, including, in particular, the following:

(a) the length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

(b) the length and purpose of any absence from the State;

(c) the nature and pattern of the person’s employment;

(d) the person’s main centre of interest, and

(e) the future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.”

These five specified factors have been derived from European Court of Justice case law which examined the concept of habitual residence in the context of social welfare benefits. The Department's guidelines go on to point out that "No single factor is conclusive. The evidential weight to be attributed to each factor will depend on the circumstances of each case. It is necessary to weigh up all the information and balance the evidence for and against an applicant satisfying the habitual residence condition".

The following examples are acceptable as proof of permanent return to Ireland:

Documented evidence of transportation of personal possessions;

Proof of cessation of employment;

Proof of termination of lease on rented property or proof of sale of home;

Evidence of closure of financial accounts and transfer of funds;

Evidence of completion of studies abroad (where applicable);

Copy of passport and expiration of visa at the time they returned.

This list is not exhaustive.

This is generally sufficient to enable the deciding officer to determine whether their present circumstances in Ireland indicate a temporary visit or habitual residence.

The Habitual Residence Guidelines have recently been reviewed and the updated version is available on the Departments website at:

http://www.welfare.ie/EN/Policy/EU/Euguide/Pages/euguideindex.aspx

Any applicant who disagrees with the decision on a case has the right to request a review of that decision and/or appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

248 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent allowance has been suspended in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13476/12]

The person concerned had their rent supplement suspended due to an issue with their primary payment. As this issue has now been resolved, the suspension has been lifted on the rent supplement claim and the Department has paid all outstanding arrears.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

249 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13518/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 1st December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 23rd January 2012 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Code

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 325 of 21 February 2012, the exact amount of time an unmarried father who has court appointed guardianship of his child must have his child reside with him before her Department recognises that he is not a lone single person but in fact a single person with guardianship of his child; her plans to address this recurring issue by introducing clear guidelines as to the position of single fathers with guardianship of their children in availing of rent support, which is a requirement in their circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13540/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer.

Every claim for rent supplement is determined having regard to the particular circumstances of the applicant. Any person seeking a rent supplement must first satisfy the Department's representative that they have a housing need that they are unable to meet from their own resources. In addition, the Department must be satisfied that the residence is reasonably suited to the needs of the claimant. The Department must also be satisfied that the rent payable is reasonable having regard to the nature, character and location of the residence.

In a case where parents have joint custody of a child, the needs of both parents to have adequate accommodation to look after the child are taken into account when an application for a rent supplement is being determined. In such cases there is no exact amount of time a parent must have access to their child, however, documentation is normally required showing that a joint custody arrangement is in place and is being availed of before a decision can be made.

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

251 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection when she expects a review of the rent allowance limits to take place; if there are plans to stop setting rent allowance along county boundaries but instead to focus on house prices across areas which have similar house prices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13580/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

252 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the difference in rent assistance payments between counties Meath and Dublin even though house prices in parts of the two counties are similar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13581/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 252 together.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from another source. Since 2005, rent supplement expenditure has increased from €369 million to a provisional outturn of €503 million in 2011. The number of persons claiming the allowance increased from almost 60,200 persons in 2005 to over 96,800 at end 2011, a 61% increase.

As the Department currently funds approximately 40% of the private rented sector it is essential that State support for rents are kept under review, reflect current market conditions and do not distort the market in a way that could increase rent prices for others, such as low paid workers and students.

New maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012 and are in place until June 2013. These new limits are in line with the most up to date market data available. The emphasis of the rent limit review was to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer was achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation. The maximum rent limits are based on an analysis of rental rates rather than house prices. This analysis shows that the asking prices for rents in Meath are below the asking prices for Dublin and this is reflected in the prescribed maximum rent limits.

While the maximum rent limits are generally set at county level staff administering rent supplement have the authority to set levels lower than those provided for in the regulations, in respect of sub-divisions of their functional areas, where this is appropriate. This allows for lower rent levels to apply in certain locations within counties reflecting local market conditions.

Social Welfare Benefits

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

253 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) returning from Spain has been advised under the habitual residence conditions that their main centre of interest is not in this country. [13585/12]

The person concerned applied for Jobseeker's allowance on 16th November 2011. Based on the information supplied by the applicant, it was decided that he did not satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition. The deciding officer in this case has decided that the person's future intentions to remain in the State are short-term.

If the person is not satisfied with the decision of the deciding officer, more documentary evidence or information that would be relevant to the case can be sent to the Department and the initial decision will be reviewed by a deciding officer.

The decision can also be appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

254 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will confirm when backdated moneys will be paid to a person (details supplied); and if she will expedite the matter. [13610/12]

On receipt of documentation requested from the person concerned any arrears due to her will be paid.

Social Welfare Appeals

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

255 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway. [13612/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 29th October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 5th March 2012 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

256 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and when it is expected that payment will be made. [13622/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for disability allowance from the above named person. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome. The average time taken to process a claim to completion, including assessment of the claimant's means, medical condition and habitual residence status is approximately 17 weeks.

Social Welfare Appeals

John Paul Phelan

Question:

257 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13648/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 15th February 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Code

Peter Mathews

Question:

258 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider reversing a cut (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13666/12]

Difficult decisions had to be made in light of the existing economic situation and commitments made by the previous Government. The rate of payment of the fuel allowance and the payment period, the "fuel season", have been greatly increased during the last ten years. The weekly payment was €6.35 in 2001 and was raised to €9 in 2002, to €14 in 2006, to €18 in 2007 and to €20 in 2010. The duration of the fuel season was increased from 26 to 29 weeks in April 2002. It increased to 30 weeks in April 2008 and to 32 weeks in April 2009. Between 2005 and 2011 the numbers in receipt of fuel allowance rose from 266,000 to 390,000, an increase of almost 50%. For the same period the cost rose from €82 million to €250 million, an increase of over 200%. Given the increase in numbers and costs, the scheme was in danger of becoming unsustainable.

The scheme is intended to provide some additional support for people on long-term welfare payments during the winter season which clearly does not last for 32 weeks. By reducing the fuel season by six weeks it begins to restore the core purpose of the payment as a winter fuel support. The current fuel season will end on Friday, 6th April and the 2012/2013 fuel season will commence on Monday, 8th October this year. There was no cut in the rate of payment of the fuel allowance and it continues to be €20 per week.

While the income supports provided by my Department are very important, the most cost-effective means of protecting households from energy poverty is to improve the home's thermal efficiency. Since 2006, more than €81 million has been expended on providing energy efficiency improvements in over 80,000 homes under the Better Energy programme, which is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, on behalf of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. As set out in the Government's Affordable Energy Strategy, the focus in 2012 will shift to addressing those households considered at higher levels of energy poverty as a priority; such households typically spend over 20% of their disposable income on energy services. This will ensure that those most in need receive the benefit of energy efficiency measures first.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jim Daly

Question:

259 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13689/12]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 1st February 2012. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 6th March 2012 advising of the decision.

In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within twenty one days.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jack Wall

Question:

260 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against the decision to refuse an application for dietary supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13692/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 25th November 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 6th March 2012 and the appeal will be assigned, in due course, to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Patrick Deering

Question:

261 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of domiciliary care allowance applications that have been reviewed since 1 January 2012; the number that have been refused; and if she will provide the information on a county or regional basis. [13699/12]

There are 1,700 domiciliary care allowance (DCA) cases scheduled for a medical review in 2012. Of these, 489 review forms have issued to recipients with 323 already returned to the Department. Twenty one cases have been examined by one of the Department's medical assessors, with 15 found to have a continuing medically eligibility for the allowance and 6 found to be no longer eligible.

This information is not collated on a county or regional basis.

In the case where a DCA payment is stopped on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information in support of their case and this information will be reviewed and/or they may appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Employment Support Services

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

262 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on schemes that lone parents may access to gain training, education and work experience; her plans to extend eligibility to lone parents to any schemes to which they are currently not eligible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13723/12]

The principal scheme operated by the Department that covers work experience, training and education is the Community Employment scheme. Lone parents are one of the target cohorts for this scheme.

Other schemes operated by the Department include the Tús programme which is aimed specifically at long-term unemployed persons in receipt of jobseeker's allowance (but not lone parents) and the Rural Social Scheme, which is open to persons who meet the programme eligibility requirements which can include those in receipt of one parent family payment.

While there are no plans to extend lone parent eligibility to the Tús programme at this point in time, all existing employment programmes and supports are being reviewed. This review, which will include eligibility criteria, will be completed by the end of March.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Question:

263 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13727/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Pat Breen

Question:

264 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue in respect of a domiciliary allowance review to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13750/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 24th February 2012 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Code

Brian Stanley

Question:

265 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps being taken to address the anomaly in the system of social welfare that prevents those who were self-employed from being able to receive social welfare or to get a place on a community employment scheme. [13751/12]

Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory). Ordinary employees who have access to the full range of social insurance benefits pay Class A PRSI at the rate of 4%. In addition, their employers make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer's PRSI is 4.25%).

Any changes to the PRSI system to extend the full range of social insurance benefits, would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered in the context of a much more significant rise in the rate of contribution payable. I established the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare last year to meet the commitment made in the Programme for Government. The Advisory Group will,inter alia, examine and report on issues involved in providing social insurance cover for self-employed persons in order to establish whether or not such cover is technically feasible and financially sustainable. In addition, the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, which is due to be completed in mid-2012, will examine this matter.

Self-employed workers may establish eligibility to assistance-based payments such as jobseeker's allowance. They can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year and, in the current climate, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. As in the case of a non-self-employed unemployed claimant of jobseeker's allowance, the means of husband/wife, civil partner or cohabitant will be taken into account in deciding on entitlement to a payment.

Once in receipt of a Jobseeker's Allowance for the requisite qualifying period (12 months) a person would be eligible to apply for Community Employment (CE) positions in the same way as any other CE-eligible client.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Smith

Question:

266 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection when a domiciliary care allowance application will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13753/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. However, before consideration of the case, additional medical evidence was received which the Appeals Officer has forwarded to the Chief Medical Advisor for his comments. On receipt of his response the appeal will be referred back to the Appeals Officer for further consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Brendan Smith

Question:

267 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for disability allowance will be processed and approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13779/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer decision on 7th March 2012.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Code

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

268 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding plans to improve supports available to lone parents in tandem with the changes scheduled in respect of how long a parent can qualify for the on- parent family payment, and reductions in the income disregards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13808/12]

At present whereas a number of activation measures facilitate the involvement of lone parents others exclude their participation. These different approaches derive from the original purpose for which the schemes were designed. As part of the Pathways to Work initiative the Government committed itself to ensuring that the social protection system incentivises rather than blocks the return to work for unemployed people, including those with families, through ongoing reform of the system. This reform will give effect to the policy principle that people have both rights and responsibilities as part of the activation agenda.

Activation interventions under the Pathways to Work approach will be based on client profiling. The key benefit of the profiling approach is that it will identify those who are most likely to fall into long-term unemployment at a very early stage. This will enable early intervention and intensive engagement with those individuals who demonstrate characteristics that suggest that they may move into long-term unemployment. The profiling system will facilitate differentiation in the services provided so that each customer receives the level of support and intervention that is appropriate to their needs.

As the approach evolves this may involve providing individuals, including lone parents, with access to education and training supports and other services such as child care and disability supports. My Department will work with the other relevant Departments including the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Health and Children in order to ensure that its approach to activation is co-ordinated with their delivery of the necessary support services.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

269 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against the refusal to grant carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if she will expedite the processing of the appeal as the applicant is experiencing financial hardship with no income; and if she will confirm the reason they were refused carer’s allowance. [13827/12]

The person in question was refused carer's allowance on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision and the reason for it.

He appealed this decision and forwarded additional medical evidence in support of his appeal. This information has been forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration.

The outcome of the review is due shortly.

Question No. 270 withdrawn.

John McGuinness

Question:

271 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an appeal for one-parent family payment and child benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [13874/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23rd September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 6th December 2011 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals and in order to be fair to all appellants, the appeals are dealt with in strict chronological order.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

John McGuinness

Question:

272 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal for invalidity pension will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [13877/12]

Further to my response to Parliamentary Question Ref. No. 4948/12, I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there is no update to the information given previously.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

273 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the average waiting time for carer’s allowance appeals. [13882/12]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

274 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the average waiting time for domiciliary care allowance appeals. [13883/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

287 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason there is a 12 to 14-month wait when dealing with appeals for domiciliary care allowance. [14212/12]

Barry Cowen

Question:

292 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the average length of time taken to process social welfare programme appeals, broken down by scheme in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012. [14227/12]

Barry Cowen

Question:

304 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of appeals currently being processed by her Department, broken down by programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14239/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 273, 274, 287, 292 and 304 together.

Figures in regard to the number of appeals currently being processed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office broken down by scheme, and the average time to process appeals by summary decision and by oral hearing by scheme type for 2007-2011 are given in the tables below. Processing time for 2012 to date are not available.

In an effort to reduce the processing times, the Department appointed 12 additional Appeals Officers during between 2010 and 2011. In addition, a further 10 Appeals Officers, formerly employed by the Community Welfare Services (CWS) of the Health Services Executive, joined the Office as part of the integration of the CWS appeals services into the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This brought the total number of Appeals Officers to 39.

The processing times below are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department's Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping the methods of operation by which the Social Welfare Appeals Office conducts its business under constant review, and that the processes are continuously being enhanced to reduce the backlogs in the Office and, overall, to reduce the processing times for dealing with appeals.

Average time take to process appeals by scheme in 2011

Appeals Pending at 1/3/2012

By summary decision

Following oral hearing

Adoptive Benefit

4

27.9

Blind Pension

14

20.4

69.8

Carers Allowance

1,331

31.3

57.9

Carers Benefit

62

21.8

59.4

Child Benefit

585

47.6

66.0

Disability Allowance

3,308

27.4

55.6

Illness Benefit

2,220

38.2

59.8

Domiciliary Care

1,649

25.4

55.8

Deserted Wives Allowance

3

Deserted Wives Benefit

11

19.2

46.0

Farm Assist

141

20.9

57.9

Bereavement Grant

37

22.1

Family Income Supplement

106

19.9

31.8

Invalidity Pension

2,150

36.4

58.9

Liable Relatives

42

31.6

84.1

One Parent Family Payment

625

24.3

57.5

Maternity Benefit

15

25.1

62.1

State Pension (Contributory)

95

24.9

55.3

State Pension (Non-Cont)

150

20.6

54.6

State Pension (Transition)

18

24.4

66.0

Occupational Injury Benefit

10

30.7

54.8

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

23

77.8

65.0

Disablement Pension

300

48.5

59.7

Incapacity Supplement

14

48.3

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

26

36.2

62.7

Guardian’s Payment (Non-Con)

14

23.9

59.0

Pre-Retirement Allowance

1

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

2,039

18.0

54.8

Jobseeker’s Allowance

1,656

23.8

47.9

Jobseeker’s Benefit

691

15.1

34.0

JA/JB Fraud Control

3

13.7

24.9

Respite Care Grant

193

23.4

60.8

Insurability of Employment

148

34.0

72.1

Supplementary Welfare All

1,928

6.3

17.6

Treatment Benefits

3

28.8

Survivor’s Pension (Con)

16

27.5

55.3

Survivor’s Pension (Non-Con)

19

18.1

53.1

Widows Parent Grant

7

22.0

All Appeals

19,657

25.1

52.5

Average time take to process appeals by scheme in 2009

Average time take to process appeals by scheme in 2010

By summary decision

Following oral hearing

By summary decision

Following oral hearing

Adoptive Benefit

32.6

Blind Pension

19.7

42.6

19.8

39.4

Carers Allowance

27.4

38.5

26.9

47.3

Carers Benefit

16.6

36.0

21.6

44.2

Child Benefit

40.2

47.3

48.4

63.1

Disability Allowance

22.1

38.4

30.8

51.1

Illness Benefit

26.4

40.4

39.2

56.4

Domiciliary Care

17.0

21.9

26.8

49.1

Deserted Wives Allowance

35.9

Deserted Wives Benefit

34.3

33.9

29.0

Farm Assist

14.4

41.5

23.2

50.7

Bereavement Grant

17.6

25.1

Family Income Supplement

14.7

28.1

21.4

29.0

Homemakers

15.3

Invalidity Pension

32.4

40.0

40.9

59.7

Liable Relatives

24.6

37.5

35.9

One Parent Family Payment

19.7

38.5

30.2

49.4

Maternity Benefit

20.8

37.7

State Pension (Contributory)

28.5

36.7

29.6

49.2

State Pension (Non-Cont)

16.9

40.7

26.5

49.9

State Pension (Transition)

22.9

25.3

30.7

Occupational Injury Benefit

16.1

64.7

55.7

53.8

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

36.9

38.8

32.5

67.9

Disablement Pension

30.1

36.3

27.4

51.9

Death Benefit (Pension)

45.3

69.6

Incapacity Supplement

37.0

30.7

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

13.3

36.0

25.3

48.3

Guardian’s Payment (Non-Con)

12.7

29.0

24.3

42.2

Pre-Retirement Allowance

9.0

35.2

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

15.9

35.8

22.2

46.9

Jobseeker’s Allowance

13.3

30.4

23.6

43.0

Jobseeker’s Benefit

14.5

25.9

22.6

36.0

JA/JB Fraud Control

46.2

59.9

Respite Care Grant

19.5

37.9

30.5

49.1

Insurability of Employment

27.0

56.9

31.3

67.4

Supplementary Welfare All

6.5

10.8

6.9

14.8

Treatment Benefits

16.5

21.9

57.8

Survivor’s Pension (Con)

19.6

43.3

35.2

53.6

Survivor’s Pension (Non-Con)

12.5

37.9

31.9

54.6

Widows Parent Grant

20.9

All Appeals

18.2

34.8

27.4

45.6

Average time take to process appeals by scheme in 2007

Average time take to process appealsby scheme in 2008

By summary decision

Following oral hearing

By summary decision

Following oral hearing

Adoptive Benefit

8.9

12.4

Blind Pension

11.7

28.6

12.2

30.3

Carers Allowance

22.5

37.3

22.3

37.0

Carers Benefit

12.7

36.1

12.4

34.3

Child Benefit

14.5

40.5

21.9

44.0

Disability Allowance

17.8

36.4

18.5

37.9

Illness Benefit

23.3

35.8

22.8

37.3

Deserted Wives Allowance

99.5

34.3

25.4

30.9

Deserted Wives Benefit

13.0

35.6

31.1

41.6

Farm Assist

12.8

34.1

15.2

37.6

Bereavement Grant

13.7

15.5

Family Income Supplement

18.6

30.2

18.1

29.6

Invalidity Pension

27.3

38.5

22.7

38.00

Liable Relatives

8.7

18.5

34.6

One Parent Family Payment

36.3

44.3

16.8

39.9

Maternity Benefit

20.1

38.3

12.4

26.3

State Pension (Contributory)

58.3

71.1

21.9

42.2

State Pension (Non-Cont)

14.7

37.2

15.4

42.9

State Pension (Transition)

29.3

32.0

58.8

Occupational Injury Benefit

21.8

38.2

20.8

48.7

Occupational Injury Ben (Med)

33.7

47.9

27.9

41.7

Disablement Pension

22.4

35.4

26.3

38.7

Incapacity Supplement

17.9

39.6

42.6

Guardian’s Payment (Con)

35.5

17.1

32.4

Guardian’s Payment (Non-Con)

43.5

15.4

Pre-Retirement Allowance

11.3

60.7

18.2

58.9

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

10.4

34.7

12.3

35.3

Jobseeker’s Allowance

7.4

18.6

9.1

24.2

Jobseeker’s Benefit

7.8

17.2

10.0

20.6

JA/JB Fraud Control

10.0

43.9

9.8

47..4

Rent Allowance

6.1

Respite Care Grant

12.2

31.3

15.3

35.2

Insurability of Employment

8.0

47.5

44.5

72.8

Supplementary Welfare All

3.3

10.0

3.9

10.7

Treatment Benefits

24.5

15.1

Survivor’s Pension (Con)

22.5

39.7

9.1

35.6

Survivor’s Pension (Non-Con)

16.1

37.0

10.2

39.7

All Appeals

14.2

18.5

13.9

32.9

Social Welfare Benefits

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

275 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of recipients of carer’s allowance who have had their allowances withdrawn in the past six months. [13884/12]

There were 641 new applications for carer's allowance withdrawn without a decision being made in the six months to end February 2012. Withdrawals are made by an applicant for various reasons or an application can be withdrawn by a deciding officer when information requested in order to decide it is not supplied by applicant.

Applications that were previously in payment but are subsequently withdrawn are referred to as terminations. In the six months to end of Feb 2012, there were 3,612 such terminations. Carer's allowance may be terminated when conditions for its receipt are no longer satisfied. The main reasons for termination include the death of carer or the care recipient, full-time care no longer being provided by the carer or the care recipient entering long-term residential care.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

276 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of recipients of domiciliary care allowance who have had their allowances withdrawn in the past six months. [13885/12]

Domiciliary care allowance (DCA) cases are routinely reviewed to ensure that the conditions for receipt of the payment continue to be met.

Since September 2011, 213 of the DCA claims reviewed have been found to no longer have an entitlement to the allowance and payment in these cases has been stopped.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ann Phelan

Question:

277 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow in respect of an appeal for the invalidity pension as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13991/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 11th January 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Community Employment Schemes

Seamus Kirk

Question:

278 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will quantify the negative impact of the material support cut for the community employment schemes announced in budget 2012; if she will consider reviewing this cut in view of the detrimental effect on community projects across the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14005/12]

As indicated, my Department will continue to provide funding for all Community Employment schemes while the financial review is underway. This review will be completed at the end of March 2012.

Department officials are meeting with projects on an individual basis and making the necessary arrangements in relation to short term funding issues. This funding is being met from within the Department's allocation.

As this process is ongoing and the funding requirement varies from project to project, the full details of the funding arrangements for each project will not be available until the review process is completed.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Question:

279 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14045/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 13th February 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Anne Ferris

Question:

280 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the alarm created among older persons by media reports suggesting that the IMF was seeking the abolition of or cuts to a range of benefits provided by her Department services to assist elderly persons, including pensions, free travel and medical cards; her response to any such request; if she is planning to implement any such cuts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14119/12]

The IMF recently completed the fifth review of the Programme of Financial Support for Ireland and stated that the Government has met the 2011 fiscal targets and is advancing structural reforms to support growth and job creation. As the Deputy will be aware, expenditure by the State continues to exceed income by an unsustainable margin and consequently, further changes are needed, on both the income and expenditure sides.

The IMF staff report for the latest review identifies areas of Irish social welfare expenditure which they believe merit examination in the context of the continuing reform of the system and fiscal consolidation. This is not a cause for alarm as any changes to the schemes operated by the Department will be decided by the Cabinet in the context of this ongoing review of expenditure and in the context of deciding the fiscal consolidation measures to be included in Budget 2013.

That consideration will take place in the context of the commitments in the Programme for Government to protect the most vulnerable in society and will be informed by, among other things, the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, which was published as part of the Budget 2012 process.

Proposed Legislation

Tom Hayes

Question:

281 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will provide an update on the proposed amendment to the Civil Registration Act 2004 to allow for the registration of deaths of Irish citizens overseas; when she expects this process to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14127/12]

Usually where an Irish citizen dies abroad, the death is registered by the civil authorities of the place where the death occurred, and a certified copy of the death registration is obtainable. This certificate, translated if necessary, is normally sufficient for all legal and administrative purposes here and for these reasons there is no necessity for the death to be registered in the State.

The provisions and procedures governing the registration of deaths in Ireland are contained in Part 5 of the Civil Registration Act 2004.

Section 38 of the Act provides that in specific circumstances the death of an Irish citizen domiciled in the State may be registered here. This applies where such a death occurs in a place where there is no system of registration, or where it is not possible to obtain a copy of or extract from the civil records of the death. In all other circumstances the death is registered by the civil authorities of the place where the death occurred.

Any broadening of the current provisions requires careful consideration given the number of people who live and die in other countries and who have, or are entitled to, Irish citizenship. However, I would hope to be in a position to introduce legislation on this, and other aspects of civil registration, in 2012.

Pension Provisions

Patrick Deering

Question:

282 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an application for a non-contributory pension will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [14136/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Appeals

Patrick Deering

Question:

283 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an appeal for carer’s allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied). [14137/12]

The person in question was refused carer's allowance on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision and the reason for it.

He appealed this decision and forwarded additional medical evidence in support of his appeal. This new information has been forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration.

The outcome of the review is due shortly.

Social Welfare Benefits

Catherine Byrne

Question:

284 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons currently in receipt of domiciliary care allowance; the number in receipt of this payment as of 1 November 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14146/12]

On 1 November 2011, there were 23,932 parents/guardians in receipt of domiciliary care allowance (DCA) in respect some 25,800 children. On 29 February 2012, the number of parents/guardians had increased to 24,101 with payment being made in respect of some 26,000 children.

Finian McGrath

Question:

285 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will stop the review of the domiciliary care allowance, reinstate payments for these children, and review the overall process for domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14153/12]

A review policy is an integral part of all social welfare schemes and is necessary to ensure that payments continue to be made only to those customers who meet the qualifying conditions.

Domiciliary care allowance (DCA) cases are routinely reviewed to ensure that all the conditions for receipt of the payment continue to be met. Cases are reviewed based on either a scheduled review following a recommendation of one of the Department's medical assessors when the claim is initially processed or on the basis of information received about a change of circumstances which potentially affects the continued entitlement of a case already in payment. Scheduled reviews, on the recommendation of the medical assessor, are based on the prognosis of the child's disability and how their care requirements may change over time.

There are no plans to discontinue these routine reviews. Any customer who has had their case reviewed and is not happy with the outcome has the right to appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals office.

The DCA scheme is regularly examined to ensure its effective on-going operation and to ensure that only those customers who have children who meet the conditions for the scheme continue to receive the payment.

I have recently announced changes to the timeframe for the return of completed review documentation. From now on, customers will have 60 days in which to return the completed review form and supporting documentation. Customers will also be informed when their payment is initially being awarded, of the review date that will apply in their case. This will address customer concerns on the time frame allowed and will provide them with additional time to gather supporting documentation or medical reports they may wish to submit in advance of the review date.

Public Service Staff

Pat Breen

Question:

286 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will report on the number of public servants from County Clare who retired as part of the Croke Park early retirement scheme from positions in her Department or from State bodies under the aegis of her Department. [14207/12]

Three civil servants retired from Ennis Local Office, under the Cost Neutral Early Retirement Scheme on 29 February 2012, whose pensions were protected from pay reductions by the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009 and the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010. There were no retirements in County Clare from the State bodies under the aegis of my Department during this period.

Question No. 287 answered with Question No. 273

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

288 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason there is a six-month wait when dealing with applications for domiciliary care allowance. [14213/12]

The average processing time for domiciliary care allowance applications is currently under eight weeks from receipt of application to decision.

Clare Daly

Question:

289 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will consider this person’s case and intervene so that a supplementary welfare allowance payment can be made. [14216/12]

Supplementary welfare allowance, which includes rent supplement, is administered by the community welfare service of the Department. The person concerned has been advised that she does not qualify for this allowance as she does not satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC).

The person concerned does have a right of review and/or right of appeal. If she wishes to have the case reviewed she can submit any additional evidence that she feels may warrant a review of the decision. She may also appeal against the decision to the Appeals Officer in the community welfare service and, if necessary, to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Departmental Schemes

Paul Connaughton

Question:

290 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway was refused permission to participate in the JobBridge scheme when the person was on jobseeker’s benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14217/12]

The person concerned had a JobBridge eligibility form completed at his Social Welfare Local Office on the 20 January 2012, who deemed him eligible at that point in time. The host organisation was subsequently informed that the person concerned was approved to commence a placement under the JobBridge scheme. It is understood that the he commenced work with the organisation on 30 January 2012. However, his jobseeker's benefit had expired on 21 January 2012, prior to his commencement with this organisation.

The person concerned has been informed that it is open to him to apply for jobseeker's allowance and to seek to have his application backdated to the date on which his jobseeker's benefit expired. If he qualifies for jobseeker's allowance he will be eligible to participate in JobBridge.

Social Welfare Benefits

Barry Cowen

Question:

291 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the average length of time taken to process social welfare programme applications, broken down by scheme in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14226/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the tabular statement.

It should be noted that figures for 2012 represent one month's activity (January).

Table A: Average weeks to award social welfare applications from 2007-2012

Average Weeks to Award (in weeks)

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012*

Jobseeker’s Benefit

2

2

3

2

2

2

Jobseeker’s Allowance

3

5

6

6

5

5

One-Parent Family Payment

10

11

13

16

16

18

State Pension Contributory (Domestic)

n/a

11

8

8

5

5

State Pension Contributory (EU)

n/a

24

22

5

2

1

State Pension Transition (Domestic)

n/a

3

3

4

4

4

State Pension Transition (EU)

n/a

17

16

4

2

1

Widow(er)’s Contributory Pension

5

4

2

3

2

2

State Pension Non-Contributory

8

9

8

9

10

11

Widow(er)’s Non-Contributory Pension

7

9

9

11

10

14

Household Benefits

n/a

2

3

3

2

1

Free Travel (Stand-alone New Pass)

n/a

1

1

4

4

2

Bereavement Grant (Sligo)

3

1

1

1

1

1

Child Benefit (New Claims — Domestic/FRA)

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

3

4

Child Benefit (EU Regulation)

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

51

55

Family Income Supplement (New)

18

13

8

10

17

19

Family Income Supplement (Renewals)

18

5

8

10

18

20

Carer’s Allowance

12

15

9

8

n/a

n/a

Disability Allowance

16

15

15

14

17

18

Invalidity Pension

8

10

12

13

n/a

29

Bereavement Grant (Longford)

n/a

2

4

4

3

1

Illness Benefit

1

1

1

1

1

1

Domiciliary Care Allowance

n/a

n/a

n/a

7

9

8

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

n/a

n/a

n/a

1

1

1

n/a Not Available

*2012 figures represent January only.

Question No. 292 answered with Question No. 273.

Barry Cowen

Question:

293 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of families contacted by her Department in November 2011 regarding a review of the domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14228/12]

Barry Cowen

Question:

294 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of families that were informed that their domiciliary care allowances were cut in January 2012. [14229/12]

Barry Cowen

Question:

295 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the total savings in her Department from the cut in the domiciliary care allowance recipients in January 2012. [14230/12]

Barry Cowen

Question:

297 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the groups or experts that were consulted regarding the domiciliary care allowance eligibility review of recipients; the advice they received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14232/12]

Barry Cowen

Question:

298 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection if she intends to change the domiciliary care allowance eligibility application process further; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14233/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 293 to 295, inclusive, 297 and 298 together.

Domiciliary care allowance (DCA) can be paid in respect of children under 16 years of age who have a disability so severe that it requires the child needing care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. This care and attention must be given by another person, effectively full-time, so that the child can deal with the activities of daily living. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months.

Eligibility for the DCA is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. Each application is assessed on an individual basis, taking account of the evidence submitted. In addition, the person claiming the allowance for the child must be providing for the care of the child and must be considered habitually resident in the State.

DCA cases are routinely reviewed to ensure that the conditions for receipt of the payment continue to be met. Cases are reviewed based on either:

1) A scheduled review based on the recommendation of one of the Department's medical assessor when the claim is initially processed; or

2) On the basis of information received about a change of circumstances which potentially affects the continued entitlement of a case already in payment.

Scheduled reviews, on the recommendation of the medical assessor, are based on the prognosis of the child's disability and how their condition may improve over time. There were 128 customers notified regarding a scheduled review of their claims in November 2011.

Customers who are reviewed are asked to provide relevant up-to-date medical evidence and details of the extra care needs of their child. This information is assessed by a medical advisor and a decision is made based on their medical opinion.

In January 2012, following a review of their claims, 57 customers were notified that they no longer qualified for the payment. Where payment is stopped as a result of a review, the customer is invited to submit any further information they may wish to have considered and that information will be further examined and/or they may appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals office.

A savings figure of €326,239 relating to these 57 DCA claims and associated respite care grants has been recorded. This figure will increase when the savings figure relating to any associated carers allowance is finalised.

Prior to the transfer of the DCA scheme from the HSE in 2009, an expert medical group examined the scheme and made recommendations on how it should operate within the Department of Social protection. These recommendations included the need for a review process and the minimum term to be applied to such reviews. The expert medical group comprised senior medical personnel from both the HSE and the Department. A consultant child psychiatrist and an international expert on disability assessment were also members of the group and its final report was reviewed by two independent medical experts.

Careful consideration was given to the DCA application process prior to the transfer of the scheme to the Department and it is considered that, overall, it is operating as envisaged. The operation of the scheme is monitored on an on-going basis and any improvements to the delivery of service that are identified are implemented.

Barry Cowen

Question:

296 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the total savings in her Department and the total number of families affected from the inclusion of the domiciliary care allowance in calculable family income supplement income from January 2012. [14231/12]

No changes have been made to the treatment of domiciliary care allowance for family income supplement (FIS) purposes. Payments under the domiciliary care allowance scheme have always been fully disregarded in determining entitlement for FIS and they continue to be fully disregarded.

Questions Nos. 297 and 298 answered with Question No. 293.

Departmental Staff

Barry Cowen

Question:

299 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the changes she has made to her Department’s staffing arrangements to tackle waiting lists and processing time delays for social welfare applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14234/12]

My Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers and continuously strives to achieve the highest standard of customer service possible. The Department relies on the knowledge and expertise of its staff to deliver these services and, in view of their crucial role, the numbers of staff required to deliver a quality customer service is kept under constant review.

In the period since May 2008, some 952 staff have been redeployed to the Department to fill critical vacancies in local offices, Central Support Units and the Department's Inspectorate to deal with the increased volume of claims due to the downturn in the economy. Taking into account the numbers of staff who have left the Department and the vacancies that exist currently, a net total of 486 additional staff have been assigned to the Department. The Department also makes judicious use of overtime and employs temporary staff as appropriate to address particular service issues as they arise.

Processing times vary across schemes, depending on the differing qualification criteria for the scheme involved. In order to meet the dual challenges of increased claim volumes and the demand for shorter processing times, the Department has embarked on a major programme of process redesign and modernisation involving the development and roll-out of new computer systems and streamlined work practices.

I should also point out that in order to offer a more streamlined, efficient and integrated service to customers, the Department is undergoing a process of intensive planning and organisational change in establishing the new National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES). This service brings together the Community Welfare Service (CWS), the Employment Services and Community Employment Programmes of FÁS, the Rural Social Scheme and Community Services Programme from the former Department of Community, Equality and the Gaeltacht and the Redundancy and Insolvency schemes from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.

The new NEES model will integrate all employment and benefit support services in a single delivery unit and will provide a coherent integrated and more personalised service to customers. It will also serve to eliminate the duplication of work that characterised services which were provided separately in the past.

Question No. 300 withdrawn.

Barry Cowen

Question:

301 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of staff dealing with application appeals in 2007 to 2011, inclusive, and to date in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14236/12]

The table details the number of permanent posts allocated to the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007. The significant increase in staff between 2011 and 2012 is due to additional posts assigned to the office during 2011, and the transfer of the Community Welfare Service to the Department in October 2011.

In addition to the permanent posts detailed in the table, there were eight retired former public servants recruited on short term contracts in the Department of Social Protection from June 2010. These officers were employed on a part time basis as Appeals Officers, and their contracts terminated at the end of December 2011.

1.1.2007

1.1.2008

1.1.2009

1.1.2010

1.1.2011

1.1.2012

Social Welfare Appeals Office

54.5

54.00

55.00

54.00

59.8

80.1

Employment Support Services

Barry Cowen

Question:

302 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the impact the Pathways to Work project will have on social welfare application waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14237/12]

The Pathways to Work policy which was launched by the Government on the 23rd of February incorporates the establishment of the new National Employment and Entitlements Service and commits to a new approach to the provision of services for unemployed people. The objective is to reduce the level of long term unemployment and to ensure those who are unemployed will be provided with appropriate advice, support, education and training to take advantage of new job opportunities as the economy recovers.

Pathways to Work has five strands:

more regular and on-going engagement with people who are unemployed,

greater targeting of activation places and opportunities,

incentivising the take-up of opportunities,

incentivising employers to provide more jobs for people who are unemployed, and

reforming institutions to deliver better services to people who are unemployed.

The roll-out of the new service will be very challenging for the Department and will require the allocation of additional internal staff and external resources to employment services/activation work. However the resources of the Department have recently been augmented by the transfer of nearly 1,700 staff from the CWS and FÁS. Over the medium term I expect that efficiencies will be realised as these staff and services are integrated and that these efficiencies will facilitate improved service delivery.

Waiting lists and processing times for social welfare payments vary across schemes and generally relate to the qualification criteria for the scheme involved. This situation is kept under constant review as part of my department's commitment to delivering the best possible service to its customers. In order to meet the dual challenges of increased claim volumes and the demand for shorter processing times, the Department has embarked on a major programme of process redesign and modernisation involving the development and roll-out of new computer systems and streamlined work practices.

Social Welfare Benefits

Barry Cowen

Question:

303 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of applications for social welfare currently outstanding in the system, broken down by programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14238/12]

The number of claims pending a decision on their eligibility at January 31st, 2012 was 104,711 compared to a total of 118,682 at the same date in 2011. This is a reduction of almost 14,000 or more than 11% in claims pending a decision over the twelve month period. About half of the total reduction is in the areas of Jobseeker's Benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance.

Scheme

Claims Pending 31/01/2011

Claims Pending 31/01/2012

Percentage Claims Pending Change during Year

Jobseeker’s Benefit

11,289

8,684

-23.1%

Jobseeker’s Allowance

27,188

22,640

-16.7%

One-Parent Family Payment

5,179

4,028

-22.2%

State Pension Contributory (Dom)

2,832

3,257

15.0%

State Pension Transition (Dom)

1,953

2,373

21.5%

Widow(er)’s Contributory Pension

519

454

-12.5%

Guardian Payment (Contributory)

119

122

2.5%

Widowed Parent Grant

0

33

Unique Allowances

524

363

-30.7%

State Pension Non-Contributory

1,541

1,993

29.3%

Blind Person Pension

47

52

10.6%

Guardian Payment (Non Contributory)

80

66

-17.5%

Widow(ers) Non Contributory Pension

125

94

-24.8%

Household Benefits

4,238

2,443

-42.4%

Free Travel

37

36

-2.7%

Bereavement Grant

929

988

6.4%

Domiciliary Care Allowance

471

331

-29.7%

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

5,462

6,219

13.9%

Child Benefit (Domestic and FRA)

3,872

n/avail

Child Benefit (EU Regulation)

2,955

2,301

-22.1%

Treatment Benefit

10,008

3,834

-61.7%

Maternity Benefit

3,412

3,730

9.3%

Family Income Supplement (New)

5,567

6,662

19.7%

Family Income Supplement (Renew)

1,696

4,469

163.5%

Carer’s Allowance

3,747

7,552

101.5%

Carer’s Benefit

378

420

11.1%

Disability Allowance

6,346

7,403

16.7%

Disablement

1,994

1,961

-1.7%

Invalidity Pension

2,117

6,790

220.7%

Bereavement Grant

541

204

-62.3%

Illness Benefit

12,969

4,791

-63.1%

Interim Illness Benefit (OIB)

316

154

-51.3%

Respite Care Grant

231

264

14.3%

One-Parent Family Payment — HQ

N/avail

234

118,682

104,711

-11.8%

Question No. 304 answered with Question No. 273.

Seán Kyne

Question:

305 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures being taken to alleviate the delays in the scanning of medical evidence pertaining to carer’s allowance applications, which, according to her Department’s officials, is the reason for the delay in the assessment of the applications. [14263/12]

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. In order to meet the challenge of increased volumes of new claims for its schemes, the department has embarked on a major programme of process redesign and modernisation, including the deployment of new computer systems. The deployment of new systems is a very resource intensive task and has, as a consequence, had a negative impact during the development and deployment phase on processing performance. Once the programme of deployment is fully completed I expect that performance will recover and improve.

As part of my department's Document, Record and Information Management (DRIM) programme and in tandem with Service Delivery Modernisation (SDM) projects underway for carer's allowance scheme, scanning of medical documents for a number of schemes including carer's allowance commenced in 2010. At the end of August 2011 scanning was extended to include carer's allowance application forms and associated documentation.

The DRIM programme is a key part of my department's ongoing change and modernisation programme. The rationale for the programme is to reduce the volume of paper documents used and stored in scheme areas by scanning documents, making the scanned images available online to staff and where appropriate, extracting data from scanned images for integration to ICT systems to facilitate automation of business processes. In order to address the high claim load and reduce the time taken to process claims resources in the carer's allowance area are being prioritised as far as possible to the reduction of the back logs. Additional resources are also being provided in the form of overtime working and temporary staff. However, it is expected to be a significant number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

Social Welfare Code

Seán Kyne

Question:

306 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection if strong consideration will be given, in the interests of fairness and transparency, to introducing assessments carried out by qualified medical personnel in the application or review process for all health-related social protection schemes such as domiciliary care allowance and disability allowance. [14267/12]

Medical assessments and medical reviews of eligibility for social welfare schemes are carried out either "in-person" or "at desk". In 2011, over 104,000 desk assessments/reviews and some 38,800 in-person assessments/reviews were carried out by the Department's medical assessors. All medical assessments and medical reviews are undertaken by fully qualified medical practitioners who have experience and specialist training/qualifications in occupational medicine as well as in human disability evaluation. Medical assessments and reviews are carried out in accordance with the Department's evidence based guidelines and protocols.

Desk assessments of eligibility are based on medical reports and medical evidence furnished by the applicant's treating physician. Applicants, who are not satisfied with a given decision, have the right of appeal to the independent social welfare appeals' office. In the case of an appeal a second medical assessment is carried out by a separate medical assessor.

A Medical Expert Group, which oversaw the transfer of domiciliary care allowance from the Health Service Executive to the Department, was satisfied that, when all circumstances were taken into account, the most appropriate way to conduct assessments for medical eligibility was by desk assessment. This approach has also been applied to other disability related schemes and I am satisfied that the current arrangements are satisfactory.

Social Welfare Benefits

Seán Kyne

Question:

307 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 336 of 28 February 2012, the reason the domiciliary care allowance has been withdrawn, following reviews, in several cases concerning children with autism, particularly given the way this condition is a lifelong disability. [14273/12]

The domiciliary care allowance (DCA) is a monthly payment to the parent/guardian of a child with a severe disability requiring continual or continuous care and attention substantially in excess of the care and attention normally required by a child of the same age. This care and attention must be provided to allow the child to deal with the activities of daily living and the child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months. Eligibility for the domiciliary care allowance is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition of the child, but on the level of the resultant need for continuous extra care and attention. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted. No specific condition or disability rules a child in or out of qualification for the allowance.

DCA cases are routinely reviewed to ensure that the conditions for receipt of the payment continue to be met. In the cases referred to by the Deputy, neither the child's condition/disability or its duration is an issue. What is being assessed is the level of additional care and attention the child needs on a continual basis because of that condition/disability and whether this is substantially more than would be required by a child of the same age who does not have that condition/disability. I want to assure the Deputy that my Department is committed to ensuring that those children who meet the conditions for the scheme will continue to receive the payment.

Social Welfare Appeals

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

308 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17, will be granted carer’s allowance. [14317/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Fraud

Joan Collins

Question:

309 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 387 of 24 January 2012, if she will provide the figure, from the 253 criminal cases relating to social welfare fraud in 2010, for the amount that was recovered by her as it relates to these cases; if she will provide this figure as a percentage of the social welfare budget for 2010; if she and her Department could have a press conference highlighting those figures instead of control savings, which are a minimum expected of any welfare system in the world; and if she will make a statement regarding the nature of press releases made relating to fraud figures from her Department. [14329/12]

The Department has abroad-ranging and comprehensive control strategy which aims to keep fraud and abuse to a minimum. Social welfare fraud undermines public confidence in the entire system as well as being unfair to other recipients of social welfare payments, taxpayers and business run on a legitimate basis. The effectiveness of control policies and activities are measured on an on-going basis by a range of performance indicators, including fraud and error surveys, number of reviews, number of employer inspections, number and amount of overpayments assessed and recovered, amount of control savings recorded and the number of prosecutions. Consequently, the number of prosecutions is only one of the indicators used.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be practical or cost-beneficial to prosecute every case of suspected welfare fraud. Generally, it is the more serious types of cases, with overpayments at the higher end of the scale, that are selected for prosecution proceedings. In the case of the Department's criminal prosecutions, it is the offence committed — rather than the debt owed — that is the subject of the proceedings. The recovery of the debt is a separate matter for the Department and is not dealt with in the context of the criminal proceedings.

In 2010, the Department recovered €34.5m from outstanding debt. The figure of 253 criminal cases referred to by the Deputy includes 246 scheme cases and 7 employer cases. The figure does not, however, include any cases finalised in court under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. In respect of the 246 scheme cases, 238 individuals have paid back in excess of €770,000 as at 31 December 2011. It should be borne in mind that social welfare debt can be repaid by a single lump sum, regular instalments or by deduction from current entitlements. It is not intended to have a press conference to highlight the number of criminal prosecutions taken by the Department.

Social Welfare Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

310 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will immediately overhaul the application and review process for domiciliary care allowance. [14333/12]

Domiciliary care allowance (DCA) can be paid in respect of children under 16 years of age who have a disability so severe that it requires the child needing care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. This care and attention must be given by another person, effectively full-time, so that the child can deal with the activities of daily living. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months.

Eligibility for the DCA is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted. No specific condition or disability rules a child in or out of qualifying for the allowance.

Prior to the transfer of the DCA scheme from the HSE in 2009, an expert medical group examined the scheme and made recommendations on how it should operate within the Department of Social Protection. These recommendations included the need for a review process and the minimum term that should apply to such reviews. A review policy in an integral part of all social welfare schemes and is necessary to ensure that payments continue to be made only to those customers who meet the qualifying conditions.

Domiciliary care allowance (DCA) cases are routinely reviewed to ensure that all the conditions for receipt of the payment continue to be met. Cases are reviewed based on either a scheduled review on the recommendation of the medical assessor when the claim is initially processed or on information received about a change of circumstances which potentially affects the continued entitlement of a case already in payment.

Scheduled reviews, on the recommendation of the medical assessor, are based on the prognosis of the child's disability and how their care needs may change over time. Customers who are reviewed are asked to provide relevant up-to-date medical evidence and details of the additional care needs of their childvis-à-vis a child of the same age who does not have their disability. This information is assessed by a medical advisor and a decision is made based on the medical opinion they provide. Where payment is stopped as a result of a review, the customer is invited to submit any further information they may wish to have considered and that information is further examined and/or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals office.

The operation of the scheme is monitored on an on-going basis and any improvements to the delivery of service that are identified are implemented. There is no proposal to discontinue the routine reviews of entitlement to DCA.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

311 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection, in view of the review of domiciliary care allowance that is being progressed at present, which is ignoring the medical advice of children’s general practitioners and other medical experts and educational experts involved in working with and treating children, if any payment that has been stopped will be reinstated immediately. [14335/12]

DCA is a monthly payment to the parent/guardian of a child with a disability so severe that the child requires care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. This care and attention must be provided to allow the child to deal with the activities of daily living. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months.

Individual DCA cases are routinely reviewed to ensure that the conditions for receipt of the payment continue to be met. Reviews are initiated with the parent/guardian being asked to complete a "review of medical criteria form", which also requires medical input from the child's GP. The parent/guardian returns this form, together with any additional recent reports of ongoing medical or therapeutic services the child may be receiving. This information is then sent for review by one of the Department's medical assessors who will provide an opinion to the deciding officer on whether the child continues to meet the medical criteria for receipt of the payment.

The decision of the deciding officer is communicated to the customer in writing and they are given the option to appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Any new or additional information received after the issue of the revised decision and before the appeal is heard, is further assessed by a medical assessor. In this way, the review process affords parents/guardians every opportunity to provide additional information from any source they wish and to have this information assessed at an early stage with payment restored, where necessary, without the necessity of an appeal hearing. My Department is committed to ensuring that those children who meet the conditions for the scheme will continue to receive the payment.

Departmental Programmes

Tom Hayes

Question:

312 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the community services programme under An Pobal which is now under her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14348/12]

The community services programme (CSP) co-funds the services delivered by around 425 community based not-for-profit enterprises across the State. Some €45.4 million has been allocated to the programme for 2012, which will support 2,800 people in full and part time employment. CSP funding is primarily intended to contribute to the wages costs of the service provider expressed as a fixed annual contribution towards the costs of employing full time equivalent workers, and in some cases, a contribution towards the cost of employing a manager.

A key requirement of the programme is that the service provider must generate a significant element of their turnover from traded activity or other non-public sources of income. The grant received from the programme must be matched over time with similar levels of traded income to fund further development of the organisation to enhance the services provided and to generate additional employment. The contribution levels vary from between 15% to 85% of turnover. In general, service providers are engaged under a three year contracting arrangement until 31 December 2013.

Access to the programme is by way of open call for proposals, the last in 2008, or by expression of interest from existing services providers where they consider the programme has a role in supporting or developing their operations. Due to resource constraints, there are limited opportunities for new proposals to be considered with funds being concentrated on supporting the employment potential of existing contract holders. I have no immediate proposals to alter the operation of the programme.

Social Welfare Appeals

Willie Penrose

Question:

313 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath in respect of a carer’s allowance application will be heard, as it was submitted in September 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14350/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 26th September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 27th January 2012 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 13th February 2012 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Shooting Rights

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

314 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a club (details supplied) can purchase the shooting rights that it has leased for the past 32 years; if it will obtain maps of the areas which are included in the actual rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13458/12]

I am advised that legal title to the shooting rights referred to by the Deputy is formally vested in the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, although my Department effectively holds the beneficial rights. While the general requirements in relation to disposal of State assets (including shooting rights) would likely necessitate that they be advertised rather than sold to any particular person or group, I understand that there are no proposals at present to sell any shooting rights which are vested in the State.

Turbary Rights

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

315 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding an appeal (details supplied); when a date may be expected for an appeal; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the delay in granting an appeal date is impeding the person’s rights to harvest turf and due to the seasonal nature of harvesting, the person could be restricted further; the problems involved in granting an appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13474/12]

Under the provisions of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, the carrying out of certain works in Natural Heritage Areas, including the extraction of turf, cannot take place without my consent as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Consent was refused for the works which the individual, referred to in the Deputy's question, intended to carry out and the individual has appealed against this decision. My Department has been in contact with the General Council of the Bar of Ireland and the Law Society of Ireland in relation to establishing a panel to draw upon for hearing and determining appeals such as this. I intend to establish this panel as soon as possible and the appeal referred to in the Deputy's question will be heard at the earliest possible date.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

316 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide details regarding the number and names of all semi-State companies and statutory agencies under the remit of his Department; if he will provide a list of all members of the board of such organisations for the years 2007 to 2011, inclusive; if he will provide a list of all expenses associated with membership of these boards on an individual basis for the relevant years; if he will provide information relating to the profession or occupation of all such members of the relevant State companies and statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13499/12]

My Department was established on 2 June 2011 and details regarding membership and fees of bodies/agencies funded from my Department's Vote groups at 31st December 2011 are laid out in the table. There are no semi-state companies under the aegis of my Department. It should be noted that Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency are North-South Implementation Bodies and are subject to dual arrangements in relation to funding.

The Deputy will understand that personal information regarding any of the board members cannot be disclosed. Regarding expenses, I am advised that the payment of expenses to board members is carried out in accordance with the guidelines and rules set down by the Department of Expenditure and Reform.

Name of Body/Agency

List of Board Members at 31st December 2011

Annual remuneration payable to Chairs and board members

Foras na Gaeilge

Mr. Liam Ó Maolmhichíl (Chair)Mr. Eoghan MacCormaic (Vice-Chair)Mr. Pol CallaghanMr. Colm CavanaghMs Áine Ní ChiaráinMs Bríd Ní ChonghoileMr. Liam KennedyMr. Seosamh Mac DonnchadhaMr. Tomás Mac EochagáinMr. Marcus MacRuairiMr. Seán Mícheal Ó DómhnaillMr. Dónal Ó hAiniféinMs Therese RuaneMr. Tomás SharkeyCáitríona Ní Shúilleabháin

Chair — €11,970/Stg£8,140;Vice-Chair — €9,830/Stg£6,690;Member — €7,695/Stg£5,235.

Ulster-Scots Agency

Mr. Tom Scott(Chair)Mr. Tony Crooks (Vice-Chair)Ms Ida FisherMr. William LeathamMr. Val O’KellyMs Hilary SingletonMs Sharon Tracey-DunneMr. Trevor Wilson

Chair — €11,970/Stg£8,140;Vice-Chair — €9,830/Stg£6,690;Member — €7,695/Stg£5,235

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Mr. Liam Ó Cuinneagáin (Chairman)Elected Board members:Mr. Brian Ó DomhnaillMs Connie Ní FhathartaMr. Fiachra Ó CéilleachairMr. Ian Mac AindriúMr. Seán Ó TuairisgMr. Micheál Ó ScanaillMr. Pádraig Ó DochartaighMr. Daithí AlcornMs Gráinne Mhic GéidighMr. Seán Ó CréabháinMr. Séamas BreathnachMr. Val HanleyMr. Cathal SeoigheMr. Séamus Cosaí Mac GearailtMr. Breandán Mac GearailtMr. Seosamh Ó CuaigMr. Tadhg Ó CuinnAppointed members:Ms Treasa Uí LorcáinMs Cathy Ní Ghoill

Chair: €20,520Board members: €11,970

Crawford Art Gallery

Mr. John R. Bowen (Chair)Ms Sheila MaguireMr. Noel O’KeefeMs Úna FeelyCllr. Jim CorrCllr. Tim BrosnanMr. Tim LuceyMr. Kevin Lonergan

No fees paid

National Library of Ireland

Mr. David Harvey (Chair)Prof Diarmaid FerriterDr Marian FitzgibbionMr Brian HalpinMr Patrick McMahonMs Carol MaddockMr Des MarnaneMrs Susan PhillipsMs Pat QuinnMr Paul RellisMr H. Paul ShovlinProf Robert Spoo

Chair: €9,450Board members: €6,300

Heritage Council

Mr. Conor Newman (Chair)Dr Caro-lynne FerrisDr Brendan DunfordMs Mary KeenanProfessor Gabriel CooneyMs Kealin IrelandDr Henry LyonsMs Gráinne ShaffreyMr. Ian LumleyMs Helen O’Carroll

Chair: €8,978Board members €5,985

National Gallery of Ireland

Ms Olive Braiden ChairpersonMr John MulcahyDr Abdul BulbuliaMr Paul O’BrienMr. Jackie GallagherMr. Dermod DwyerDr. Tom McCarthy (Vice Chair)Ms Kathleen WatkinsMr. Michael Cush SCMr. Fred KrehbielMr. James HanleyMr. Martin GaleMs Clare McGrathProf Luke O’Connor DruryMr. Des McMahonMr. Matthew DempseyMr Martin Alphonsus Mealy

Chair: €8,978Board members: €5,985

National Concert Hall

Mr. Kieran Tobin ChairmanMs Dearbhla CollinsMr. John McGraneMs Laurie CearrMs Gina MenziesMr. Bruce ArnoldMs Margaret RyanMr. Ray BatesMs Alma HynesMs Artemis KentMs Deborah KelleherMr. Peter McEvoyMr. Pat HeneghanMs Rachel HolsteadMs Patricia Slavin

Chair: €8,978No fee paid to board members

National Museum of Ireland

Dr. John O’Mahony, ChairMr. Gerard CollinsMr. Fergus McKenna O’HaganMr. Eamonn McEneaneyMr. Eamon StackMs Eileen JacksonMr. Olivier KazmierczakMs Mary SleemanMs Frances RocksMr. Paul KellyProfessor Dervilla M.X. DonnellyProfessor Peter WoodmanDr. Chris NicholasProfessor Gearoid O’TuathaighMs Maírín de BrúnMs Mary Crotty

Chair: €8,978Board members: €5,985

Irish Museum of Modern Art

Mr. Eoin McGonigal ChairmanMs. Emer O’KellyMr. Conor BowmanMs. Anne O’DonoghueMr. Eamon DelaneyMr. Brian McMahonMs. Julie O’NeillMr. Brian RanalowMr. Brendan FlynnMr. Rowan GillespieMs. Mary McCarthyDr. Éimear O’Connor

Chair: €8,978No fee paid to board members

Culture Ireland

Prof. Michael Ó Suilleabháin (Chairman)Ms Mary McCarthyMs Dearbhla CollinsMr. Davey ArthurMr. Simon PerryMr. Niall Ó Donnchú DASTex officioMr Dessie LarkinMr Martin MackinMr Gerry MullinsMr. Tom CrowleyMr.Colm O’Floinn ex officioMr.James Hickey ex officioMs Orlaith McBride ex officio

Chair: €8,978Board Members €5,985

Arts Council

Ms. Pat MoylanMs. Aibhlín McGrannMs. Louise DonlonMs. Caroline SeniorMs. Fiona KearneyMr. Colm TóibínMr. Paul JohnsonMs. Judith WoodworthMr. John O’DonnellDr. Éimear O’ConnorMr. Ciarán WalshMr. Mark O’ReganMr. John Fanning

Chair: €8,978Board members: €5,985

Irish Film Board

Mr. James Morris, ChairMs Lesley McKimmMr. Tristan Orpen LynchMr. Kevin MoriartyMs Kirsten SheridanMr. Barry GraceMr. Johnny Gogan

Chair: €8,978Board members: €5,985

Chester Beatty Library

Dr Patricia DonlonMs Caroline GreyMrs Madeline O’Sullivan

No fees paid

Arts Funding

Nicky McFadden

Question:

317 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if funding is available from the arts unit in 2012 to fund a development (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13600/12]

My Department's arts capital allocation for 2012 is already earmarked for projects that were approved for funding some time ago and there is currently a waiting list of projects for funding in 2013 and future years. I will, however, ask my Department to look at the project referred to by the Deputy, taking account of the overall situation in relation to resources.

Simon Harris

Question:

318 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will outline in tabular form the supports and grants administered by him that the volunteer producers of a cultural publication (details supplied) may avail of. [13990/12]

There are no supports or grants available from my Department which would assist in the publication to which the Deputy refers. Primary responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved to the Arts Council. The Council is funded by my Department and is independent in its funding decisions.

Public Service Staff

Pat Breen

Question:

319 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will report on the number of public servants from County Clare who retired as part of the Croke Park early retirement scheme from positions in his Department or from State bodies under the aegis of his Department. [14195/12]

No public servants from County Clare retired as part of the Croke Park early retirement scheme from positions in my Department or from State bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Merger of Cultural Institutions

Dara Calleary

Question:

320 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the projected annual savings from the proposed merger of the National Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Crawford Gallery; how it is envisaged that these savings will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14305/12]

As Deputy will be aware, the Government announced its Public Service Reform Plan on 17 November 2011. This included a new and expanded programme of State Agency rationalisations. Appendix IIA to that announcement set out a number of bodies to be rationalised, amalgamated or abolished in 2012, including, in respect of my Department, the following action: "Combine Irish Museum of Modern Art, Crawford Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Ireland, while retaining separate identities". My Department has commenced a detailed examination of the issues involved. The input of the institutions will be crucial in this examination. At this point, it is not yet possible to properly assess the issue of projected savings. The Deputy will appreciate that the pursuit of efficiencies and synergies are also some of the elements under consideration.

Offshore Exploration

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

321 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the proposals, if any, he has to deal with the red tape that is blocking the progress of a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14215/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 2 of 7 March 2012. The decision on the regulatory treatment of the gas interconnectors is statutorily a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. I have no function in the matter. The CER, as the independent energy regulator, has a remit to protect energy consumers, ensure security of supply and support competitiveness. It also has a duty to ensure new sources of gas for the Irish market do not result in unwarranted increases in the price of gas to business and domestic consumers. On 17 February, the CER published a Proposed Decision Paper on the issue of the regulatory treatment of the gas interconnectors. Together with all players and potential players in Ireland's gas market, Shannon LNG has a key commercial interest in the outcome of the CER's ultimate decision on this very complex regulatory question. Given the complexities, there are many different perspectives on this issue. On 1 March the CER held a further Public Forum for stakeholders. The objective of the Forum was to give stakeholders the opportunity to discuss with the CER any issues relating to the contents of the proposed Decision Paper in order to help inform the CER's final decision. I understand that representatives of Shannon LNG attended the Forum. Stakeholders have a further opportunity to respond to the CER by 16 March on the matters raised in the Proposed Decision Paper. At the end of this period, the CER will assess all comments received and publish a final decision. I understand the CER expects a final decision to be available within two months. The CER's decision will bring the regulatory certainty needed by all stakeholders in the gas market including those with investment decisions to make.

Telecommunications Services

Noel Harrington

Question:

322 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps that have been taken, since this Deputy last raised the issue in September 2011, to enable a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be provided with a proper broadband service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13460/12]

The person to whom the Deputy refers is in receipt of a broadband service through the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). By way of background, my Department entered into a contract with 3, a Hutchison Whampoa company, for the delivery of the NBS in late December 2008, following the conclusion of a competitive dialogue procurement process. The objective of the NBS is to deliver broadband to certain target areas in Ireland in which broadband services were deemed at the time to be insufficient. Since October 2010, broadband services are available in all of the 1,028 Electoral Divisions (ED) designated to be covered under the Scheme. The NBS contract guarantees service levels and imposes a service credit regime on 3 with financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met. Under the NBS contract, specific service level agreement (SLA) standards are in place, which define the service and support levels to be provided by 3 to NBS subscribers. Any NBS customer experiencing problems with the NBS service can contact3's customer care centre 24 hours a day 7 days a week by phone at 1913 (free of charge), via e-mail tonbssupport@three.ie or by post to 3 Customer Services, Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd, PO Box 333, Dublin 2. My Department has a role when customers have fully utilised the established complaints process. It operates a dedicated NBS mailbox, which NBS customers can contact by e-mail at nationalbroadbandscheme@dcenr.gov.ie with any comments or complaints they may have about their NBS service. My officials have been in contact with the person referred to by the Deputy and are liaising with 3 on his behalf to ensure his current difficulties are quickly resolved.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

323 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details in relation to the number and names of all semi-State companies and statutory agencies under the remit of his Department; if he will provide a list of all members of the board of such organisations for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; if he will provide a list of all expenses associated with membership of these boards on an individual basis for the relevant years; if he will provide information relating to the profession or occupation of all such members of the relevant State companies and statutory agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13501/12]

Seven commercial semi-State bodies and nine non-commercial semi-State bodies with boards are under the aegis of my Department. Information in respect of the members of each board from 2007 to 2010 is available in the bodies' annual reports, which are available in the Library of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Information can also be found on the eGovernance website,www.egovernance.ie, or by contacting the body directly. For the convenience of the Deputy, a list of these Bodies and the current membership of their Boards or Commissions is set out in the table that follows this reply. Expense arrangements are operational matters for the individual bodies. Information on the members’ professions or occupations, to the extent that it is in the public domain, is contained in the annual reports.

Name of Board

Members of Board

An Post

Mr John FitzgeraldMr John QuinlivanMs Catherine WoodsMs Anne ConnollyMr James WrynnMr Donal ConnellMr Paul HenryMr Peter OrmondMr J. Alan SloaneMr Jerry CondonMr Patrick ComptonMr Thomas DevlinMr Gerry O’TooleMr Patrick Costello

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Mr Bob CollinsMr John WatersDr Maria MoloneyMs Paula DowneyMs Michelle McShortallMr Larry BassProfessor Colum KennyMs Siobhán Ní GhadhraMr Michael Moriarty

RTÉ

Mr Noel CurranMr Tom SavageMr Alan GilsenanMr Fergus ArmstrongMr Sean O’SullivanMs Patricia QuinnMs Karlin LillingtonMs Orlaith CarmodyMs Aileen O’MearaMs Eunice O’RawMr Stuart SwitzerMr Joe Little

TG4

Mr Peadar Ó CuinnMr Seosamh Ó ConghaileMs Eilís Ní ChonghaileMs Meadh Mhic GhairbeithMr Padraig MacDonnachaMs Meadhbh Nic an AirchinnighMs Brid Ní NeachtainMr Feargal Ó SéMs Regina CullitonMr Concubhar Ó LiatháinMr Rónán Ó Coisdealbha

Digital Hub Development Agency

Mr Leonard DonnellyMs Alice DavisMr Denis MolumbyMs Katherine Licken (DCENR)Mr John TierneyMr Philip Flynn CEO

Bord Gáis Éireann

Ms Rose HynesMr John MullinsMr Aidan EamesMr Mike O’ HaraMr Laurence CrowleyMr Laurence ShieldsMr Joe O’FlynnMs Imelda HurleyMr Prionsias Kitt

Bord na Móna

Mr Fergus McArdleMr Gabriel D’ArcyMr Peter WyerMr David TaylorMr Rory ScanlanMs Denise CroninMr Pat McEvoyMr Paudge BennettMr Colm O’GógáinMr Paddy Fox

EirGrid

Ms Bernie GrayMr Dermot ByrneDr Joan SmythMr Richard SterlingDr Gary HealyMs Regina MoranMr Liam O’HalloranMs Bride RosneyMs Doireann BarryMs Martina Moloney

ESB

Mr Brendan ByrneMr Lochlann QuinnMs Ellvena GrahamMr Sean ConlanMr Dave ByrneMr Sean KellyMs Noreen WrightMr Garry KeeganMr Seamus MallonMr John ColemanMr Tony Merriman

Irish National Petroleum Corporation Ltd

Mr Aidan DonnellyMr Séan FitzgeraldMr Vincent CaffreyMs Aoife MacEvilly (DCENR)

National Oil Reserves Agency

Mr Aidan DonnellyMr Oliver WhelanMr Séan FitzgeraldMr Vincent CaffreyMs Aoife MacEvilly (DCENR)Mr Pat Meehan (ex officio)

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Mr Brendan HalliganMr John BuckleyMr Brian Carroll (DCENR)Mr Joe HarfordMr Grattan HealyMr Sean WyseMs Julie O’NeillMr Michael ConlonProfessor J Owen Lewis

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Mr Brendan O’MahonyMr Andrew DuncanMs Muireann O’NeillMr Lal FahertyMr Michael McGrealMr John GearyMr John CarrollDr Frances LucyMr Marcus MacMahonDr Ciaran Byrne (ex officio)

Loughs Agency

Mr Winston PattersonMr Tarlach O’CrosainMr Alan McCullaMr Joe MillerMr Thomas SloanMr Jim WilsonMr. Andrew DuncanMr Phil MahonMr Michael McCormickMr Seamus RogersMr Donal TippingMs Theresa McClafferty

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Ms Geraldine Stafford

The Mining Board

Mr Michael MacGrathMr Eoin Ó BuachallaMr Michael Neary

Telecommunications Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

324 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when it might be expected that high speed broadband facilities will be made available to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the number of students at the college, the urgency arising from the concern of parents and the need to provide modern high speed telecommunications to the educational sector; if the school may be considered as an optimal site for a pilot of the upcoming phase in the north Kildare region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13542/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

325 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a breakdown of schools in County Kerry that will benefit from the roll-out of broadband; and when it is expected that broadband will be provided to them. [13576/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 324 and 325 together.

All post-primary schools will have a 100 Mbps broadband connection installed by the end of 2014 in a project jointly funded by the Departments of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Education and Skills. The selection of schools for connection during 2012 was guided by the view that a geographical rollout will provide the project with the most economically beneficial method to achieve the project objectives. This will allow for the aggregation of backhaul links to provide the optimum solution for the schools selected. It will also allow service providers to provide the local school access connection in a cost-effective manner to deliver multiple schools for similar locations at a reduced cost to the Exchequer. In identifying the most appropriate locations to deliver the first round of increased bandwidth connections, it was decided to concentrate on those locations receiving the lowest average speed under the Department of Education and Skills' existing Schools Broadband Programme. It is expected that the first 200 second level schools in the national rollout will be connected by October 2012. These include all second level schools in counties Cavan, Clare, Donegal, Galway, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath. The question of the scheduling of schools for connection in 2013 and 2014 will be dealt with at a later date. I can confirm again that all second level schools will be provided with 100Mbps broadband by the end of 2014. In the meantime, the Department of Education and Skills continues to operate its Schools Broadband Programme for all primary and post-primary schools.

Departmental Schemes

Clare Daly

Question:

326 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will change the criteria for grant aided conservation projects for home owners to a partially means tested scheme, in order that higher grants are available to those with lower incomes, on a sliding scale basis, in view of the fact that the present scheme means that the benefits of the scheme are available only to the wealthiest homeowners, as they are the only ones with the means to pay the remaining costs. [13634/12]

The Better Energy programme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), on behalf of my Department. The scheme is a demand-led programme open to all homeowners of dwellings built before 2006. The Better Energy Homes scheme provides support to homeowners towards the installation of attic and wall insulation, and heating system upgrades including solar thermal with the works being undertaken by privately appointed contractors. It is not planned to move to means test applications. The Better Energy: Warmer Homes Scheme is available to low-income households in receipt of the fuel allowance, which is means tested. Measures that are available are draught-proofing, attic insulation, lagging jackets for hot water tanks, low energy light bulbs and cavity wall insulation. The Department and the SEAI are in the process of reviewing the eligibility criteria for Better Energy: Warmer Homes. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to roll out a Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) energy retrofit scheme for domestic buildings in early 2014. Such a scheme would substitute Exchequer funding currently being provided to the Better Energy Programme and it is envisaged that this new model will facilitate different household incomes to access energy efficiency measures. The PAYS concept is an innovative financing mechanism that would allow consumers to finance upgrades directly through the energy savings generated. My Department has established a project team to undertake the necessary technical and financial analysis of a PAYS model in the Irish context and I will bring forward proposals to Government shortly.

Peter Mathews

Question:

327 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13715/12]

The Better Energy programme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), on behalf of my Department. The Better Energy Homes solar grant is €800 for every eligible home where the installation of the system meets the installation requirements as set out in the Better Energy Homes Code of Practice. The requirements under Better Energy Homes are in line with the current building regulations in this area. The requirements are also set out in the Solar Buyers Guide which forms part of the Better Energy Homes scheme Application Form and Guide. SEAI advises that to meet the technical specification of the grant, the solar water heating installation must contribute a portion of renewable energy for domestic hot water heating depending on the floor area of the property (these figures are calculated in the Building Energy Rating (BER) software dwelling energy assessment procedure. SEAI further advises that where the applicant's property has a stated BER floor area of 268 sq. m., the solar installation must be sized to provide at least 2,000 KW hours per annum with the solar renewable energy contribution per year being verified by the chosen solar water heating installation company before installation commences. According to the SEAI, the information supplied for this property is that the installation only provides 797 KW hours per year as compared with a requirement for a property this size of 2000 KW hours per year. When the contractor returned this solar calculation information, it indicated that the installed system fell far short of the installation requirements and was therefore declined. Payment of this grant was declined by SEAI for failure to meet the technical requirements of the grant scheme and a letter confirming this was sent to the homeowner on 13 January 2012. My Department has asked the SEAI to respond directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Fishing Vessel Licences

Brendan Griffin

Question:

328 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if a drift net fishing licence will reissue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13762/12]

A complete cessation of drift net fishing has been in place since 2007. I understand that the person referred to by the Deputy is a former holder of a commercial drift net licence and received payment under the Salmon Hardship Scheme. Beneficiaries of that scheme undertook not to apply for a commercial fishing licence in the future and had until 31 December 2007 to complete the decommissioning of their nets and comply with the other terms of the scheme. Under the terms of the scheme, an applicant who received a hardship payment and in the future is found to be in breach of the salmon fishing regulations, will be required to repay the full amount of the hardship payment received together with interest from the day of payment

Telecommunications Services

James Bannon

Question:

329 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason there is a lack of broadband availability at a location (details supplied) in County Longford; the reason he failed to respond to a letter on this issue from a frustrated resident dated 5 January; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13826/12]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband services, is a matter in the first instance for private sector service providers operating in a liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). Broadband services are provided by private service providers over various platforms including DSL (i.e. over telephone lines), fixed wireless, mobile, cable, fibre and satellite.

In cases of market failure the Government will intervene, where it is appropriate and possible to do so. The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) represents such an intervention. It aimed to bring an affordable, scalable broadband service to certain designated rural areas where the extent of broadband coverage by commercial operators, at the time the Scheme was launched in 2008, was deemed to be inadequate.

Prior to the commencement of the NBS a detailed mapping exercise was carried out to determine those areas that would be included in the Scheme and those which, by virtue of being already substantially served by existing broadband suppliers, could not be included.

EU State aid and competition rules govern how States can intervene in areas in which commercial service providers already operate. Accordingly, the NBS is restricted to providing a basic service and is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

That mapping exercise found that the general area of Ardagh in County Longford was already served by existing service providers and consequently was excluded from the Scheme. Details of broadband services available in each county can be found on ComReg's website atwww.callcosts.ie.

I replied to the original letter from the individual referred to in the Deputy's Question in February last and have made arrangements to have this copied to the Deputy for his information.

Mining Licences

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

330 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will renew the Tara Mines licence; the terms of this licence; and if the new licence will develop a source of revenue for the Irish State. [13837/12]

Boliden Tara Mines Ltd currently operates under a number of State Mining Facilities (Leases and Licences) which currently extend to end February 2013. An additional facility for one area was granted in 2006 which will expire in 2021. Each facility contains a variety of terms and conditions, including financial terms, duration, proper working of minerals, closure provisions, etc. Details of all current State Mining Leases and Licences may be found in the Six Monthly Report, which I am required to lay before the Oireachtas under the Minerals Development Acts 1940 to 1999. Under the terms of an agreement executed in 1989, future royalties under the original lease, together with the State's shareholding in the mine, were purchased by the Company.

This Department is at present in discussions with the Company on terms for a new facility for a major underground extension. It is my intention that the terms of any new facility will include payment of royalties to the State. The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot go into details that might compromise such discussions at this time.

Departmental Schemes

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

331 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if applications can be accepted under the salmon hardship scheme from fishermen who did not take up the offer at the time and who have now retired from fishing; if they can be accommodated for compensation under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13934/12]

The Salmon Hardship Fund was established by the then Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in line with the decision to put an end, on conservation grounds, to the mixed stock fishery for salmon at sea. The Scheme was put in place, on the basis of a 2006 Report of the Independent Salmon Group, to provide a payment to former commercial licence holders, based on their catch history, who could no longer fish or chose to withdraw from the fishery.

The scheme was launched in March 2007 and was administered by Bord Iascaigh Mara (BIM), with the exception of the Foyle area, which was administered by the Loughs Agency, and the closing date for receipt of completed applications was 27th April 2007. A total of 1,339 Letters of Offer were issued by BIM, to eligible applicants. The beneficiaries undertook not to apply for a commercial fishing licence in the future and had until the 31 December 2007 to complete the decommissioning of their nets and comply with the other terms of the scheme.

The Salmon Hardship Fund has been closed for almost five years and no further applications can be accepted. In addition, in the current very difficult economic circumstances, there are no plans to re-establish the scheme.

Alternative Energy Projects

David Stanton

Question:

332 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, further to Parliamentary Question No. 156 of 23 February 2012, the amount of State funding available for research and development of ocean energy technology and projects; if he will provide details of the specific supports available to companies engaging in such activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13943/12]

The Ocean Energy Development Unit (OEDU) in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is working to take forward Ireland's ocean energy programme, in line with the Government's commitment to realise the long term economic potential of Ireland's wave and tidal energy resources. In that context SEAI is working closely with the Marine Institute and my Department as well as the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

SEAI's Prototype Development Fund supports the development of wave and tidal device prototypes and associated supporting technologies. A total of 32 projects have been funded to date. Of these 21 projects have been completed and 11 are in the process of completion. New guidelines for the Prototype Development Fund are currently being developed by the SEAI.

Work is also continuing on the pre-planning stages for the potential development of a grid connected pre-commercial full scale prototype test site. An application for an exploration foreshore lease was submitted in December 2011 and environmental monitoring on the proposed site is being carried out. An electricity grid connection offer in respect of the site has been received. The funding options for future development of the test site will be the subject of detailed assessment in the context of the 2013 Budget and subsequent years.

The IDA and Enterprise Ireland are also involved in developing and assisting the ocean energy sector as part of their clean technology development drive, working with SEAI, my Department and the sector itself.

My Department is finalising an offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan underpinned by a Strategic Environmental Assessment of Irish waters, which is due to be completed shortly.

€2.9m has been allocated to the SEAI Ocean Energy Development Programme for 2012, of which some €1.65m is being allocated to the Prototype Development Fund.

Telecommunications Services

Seamus Kirk

Question:

333 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline the telecommunications charges in the context of comparable unit costs in comparison to other EU member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14001/12]

International comparisons of telecommunications costs generally are increasingly complex to measure and compare. This difficulty arises from the increasing level of competition in telecommunications markets delivering a wide choice of options to customers with different terms and conditions applicable, including free or reduced rental and call charges, differing usage conditions and limits and, increasingly, service providers offering bundled services.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), the independent telecommunications market regulator in Ireland, publishes quarterly statistical reports, which include international comparisons of retail telecommunications charges for residential and business customers, prepared by Teligen using an OECD approved methodology. The tables for September 2011, from ComReg's Quarter 3 2011 report, are available on ComReg's website athttp://www.comreg.ie/_fileupload/publications/ComReg1198.pdf

Ireland ranks 12th of the EU countries surveyed, two places below the average of the benchmarked countries for fixed-line type telephony charges available to residential customers. Ireland ranks 2nd and ten places below the average of the benchmarked countries for fixed-line type telephony charges available to business customers (figures 2.4.1.1 and 2.4.2.1 in the ComReg report refer).

Ireland ranks 17th of the EU countries surveyed for broadband charges per month for both residential and business customers. This is slightly below the EU average cost for business customers and slightly above the EU average cost in the case of residential customers (figures 3.6.2 and 3.6.3 in the ComReg report refer).

In the mobile telephony category, the Teligen surveys compare prices for low, medium and high post-pay services and a prepaid service. Ireland is ranked 12th and two places below the benchmarked country average for low usage; 7th and 6 places below the benchmarked average for medium usage; 7th and 4 places below the average for high usage and 15th, which is 3 places above the average, for prepaid service (figures 4.8.1.1, 4.8.2.1, 4.8.3.1 and 4.8.4.1 respectively in the ComReg report refer).

However, as stated above, these comparison tables do not measure other factors including quality of service, actual usage or permitted maximum limits nor do they measure pricing of more complex bundled services nor the rates negotiated bilaterally by large users connected via leased lines. In addition, the Teligen surveys typically compare the pricing options of service providers with the largest market share by platform type, which may not necessarily include the lowest priced options available in all cases.

Energy Pricing

Seamus Kirk

Question:

334 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline the gas charges in the context of comparable unit costs in comparison to other EU member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14002/12]

I have no statutory function in the setting of gas prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated market. Responsibility for the regulation of the gas market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is an independent statutory body.

Ireland's gas market, both wholesale and retail, is characterised by increasing competition, regulated by the CER. Since 1 October last, the residential gas consumer segment is the only segment of the market where prices are regulated. Prices in the unregulated parts of the gas market are wholly commercial, are set by the suppliers and are variable in accordance with supplier offerings.

Every six months EUROSTAT publishes data on gas prices across the European Union. The prices presented include all charges payable, namely network charges, plus energy consumed, minus any rebates or premiums, plus charges such as meter charges and standing charges. These prices represent weighted average prices, using the market share of the gas suppliers surveyed as weighting factors. Therefore, while Eurostat prices do not represent prices charged by any individual supplier they do provide a benchmark to enable gas price comparisons to be made across the EU. EUROSTAT data is analysed by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The latest analysis of EUROSTAT data published by SEAI — Electricity and Gas Prices in Ireland (1st Semester 2011) — shows that for 77% of business consumers Irish gas prices for the first half of 2011 are competitive by reference to the EU average. Prices for most Irish business consumers during the first half of 2011 ranged from 4% to 15% below the EU average. For the overwhelming majority of Irish residential consumers prices during the same period were 10% below the EU average.

The tables beneath provide a summary of the SEAI analysis of Irish gas prices for both business and residential consumers relative to the EU average during the first half of 2011:

Business (VAT excluded)

Band Share of Market

Cost €GJ

Relative to EU average

Ireland’s Ranking in EU (where 1 means the most expensive of 25 MS)

Band I1 (Small)

15.5%

10.61

85%

17

Band I2 (Small to Medium)

27.3%

10.32

91%

15

Band I3 (Medium to Large)

22.6%

10.61

111%

8

Band I4 (Large)

34.6%

7.95

96%

13

Residential Gas (all taxes included)

Band Share of Market

Cost €GJ

Relative to EU average

Ireland’s Ranking in EU (where 1 means the most expensive of 25 MS)

Band D1(Small)

2.9%

15.52

68%

19

Band D2 (Medium)

95.1%

14.14

90%

15

Band D3 (Large)

2.0%

13.44

91%

15

The SEAI report may be downloaded from the SEAI website atwww.seai.ie.

Competition puts downward pressure on prices noting that global fossil fuel prices are a key determinant of Ireland's gas costs. While Ireland is a price taker for imported fossil fuels, Government will continue to focus on any additional actions to mitigate costs where possible for business and domestic consumers. This is essential for competitiveness, employment and for economic recovery. I am committed to working with enterprise and with the energy sector to ensure that the costs of energy for business are as competitive as possible in terms of these measures which are at our disposal.

Electricity Transmission Network

Seamus Kirk

Question:

335 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the electricity interconnector between Ireland and the UK. [14003/12]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the North South Interconnector which is the proposed Meath-Tyrone transmission line. The North South transmission line project is a strategically vital project for the island of Ireland. It will assist in the integration of renewable electricity, further consolidate the all-island electricity market, enhance competitiveness and support inward investment.

In line with the Programme for Government commitment, I appointed an international commission in July 2011 to review and report on the case for and cost of undergrounding the Meath-Tyrone power lines. I received the report of the Commission in January and, having advised the Government published it and forwarded it to the Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture for the Committee's consideration. Following a period of reflection, including the completion of the Committee's own deliberations I will be reverting to Government on Security of Energy Supply matters generally including the strategic necessity to cost effectively develop and upgrade the national electricity grid.

Commercial State Bodies

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

336 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which Coillte, Bord na Móna, Bord Gáis and ESB have entered into joint ventures for the development of wind farms with private developers; in general, the terms and basis of such joint ventures; the benefits accruing to the State therefrom and the amount of investment required by the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14140/12]

I have no statutory function in respect of Coillte Teoranta.

The development of wind energy opportunities forms an integral element of the corporate strategies of Bord na Móna, Bord Gáis and the ESB.

The pursuit of such opportunities, and any decision to enter into a joint venture with a private developer for the development of a wind farm, are primarily a commercial decision for the board and management of the State body in question.

I can advise the Deputy that Bord na Móna has a joint venture with a private developer in respect of Bellacorick Wind Farm, County Mayo and that Bord Gáis has a joint venture with a private developer in relation to Owenreagh Wind Farm, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

In addition, the ESB has joint ventures with private developers in connection with wind farms at Mountain Lodge, County Cavan and Crockahenny, North Donegal.

Public Service Staff

Pat Breen

Question:

337 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will report on the number of public servants from County Clare who retired as part of the Croke Park early retirement scheme from positions in his Department or from State bodies under the aegis of his Department. [14197/12]

As neither my Department nor State bodies under its aegis have offices in County Clare, I can confirm that there were no retirements from that location.

Local Authority Charges

Derek Nolan

Question:

338 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the tax forgone through the exemption of rental accommodation scheme properties from paying the non-principal private residence charge; the rationale behind the exemption of such properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13557/12]

The RAS exemption was included in the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 in order to encourage take-up of the then relatively new scheme.

As RAS has now been in existence for a number of years, the Government decided to remove the exemption in the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 with effect from 2012. It is estimated that the cost of the RAS exemption from payment of the charge on non-principal private residences was some €10.5 million for the years 2009 to 2011 inclusive.

Motor Taxation

Peter Mathews

Question:

339 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter regarding motor tax (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13669/12]

I intend to bring forward legislation this year to address the issue of off-the-road declarations. Currently, owners declare vehicles off the road for the purposes of motor tax after the fact, which is effectively unverifiable and open to abuse.

I intend to provide that drivers will be able to declare their intention to keep their vehicle off-the-road in advance, so that if a vehicle is not to be used on a public road for a number of months, the owner will be obliged to inform the relevant authorities before taking the car off the road rather than afterwards.

Clár Forbartha Áitiúil

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

340 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén uair a dhéanfar íocaíocht leis na grúpaí ar fad ar ceadaíodh deontais dóibh ag MFG agus nár íocadh; an bhféadfadh sé na grúpaí i nGaillimh a bhfuil deontas ag dul dóibh a ainmniú; an méid atá ag dul chuig gach grúpa/duine; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [13967/12]

Chuaigh Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (MFG), an grúpa atá conraithe ag mo Roinn chun seachadadh a dhéanamh ar Axes 3 agus 4 (LEADER) den Chlár Forbartha Tuaithe (CFT) sa Ghaeltacht, faoi leachtú ar an 7 Meán Fómhair, 2011. Tá dul chun cinn á dhéanamh ó thaobh dlí de maidir le "imeachtaí foirceanta" agus tá na comhaid ábhartha tionscadail ar fad curtha ar aghaidh ag an leachtaitheoir agus tá siad ag mo Roinn faoi láthair. Tá mo Roinn ar an eolas maidir leis an leibhéal maoinithe atá geallta ag na staideanna difriúla le linn shaolré na dtionscadal ach caithfear méid áirithe seiceála a dhéanamh ó thaobh riaracháin agus airgeadais de sula mbeifear in ann uimhir agus méid na n-íocaíochtaí a chinntiú. Dá bhrí seo, ní féidir a bheith cinnte ag an am seo faoi na híocaíochtaí atá ag dul do thionscnóirí i gCo. na Gaillimhe ná in aon Ghaeltacht eile.

Tá dul chun cinn suntasach déanta agus rinneadh teagmháil le tionscnóirí, a raibh conarthaí iomlán comhlánaithe acu, i gcaitheamh na seachtaine dár críoch 2 Márta, 2012, chun an t-eolas i dtaobh a dtionscadal féin a dheimhniú ionas go mbeifear in ann na híocaíochtaí atá ag dul dóibh a íoc. Chomh luath agus a bheidh an próiseas seo thart beidh na Comhlachtaí Forbartha Áitiúla atá ag feidhmiú in aice leis na ceantair Ghaeltachta ag déileáil idir an dá linn leis na híocaíochtaí sa ghearrthéarma.

Maidir le seachadadh Axes 3 agus 4 (LEADER) de chuid Chlár Forbartha Tuaithe sa Ghaeltacht san fhadtéarma, tá tús curtha ag mo Roinn le próiseas chun léirithe spéise a iarraidh ar Chomhlachtaí Forbartha Áitiúla atá ann cheana maidir le gnéithe LEADER de chuid CFT sna ceantair ina raibh MFG ag feidhmiú a sheachadadh sa tréimhse atá fágtha den Chlár.

Cuireadh an t-iarratas chuig na Comhlachtaí Forbartha Áitiúla ar fad Dé Máirt, 6 Márta, 2012, agus is é 27 Márta, 2012, an dáta deiridh le glacadh le léiriú spéise.

Departmental Correspondence

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

341 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14114/12]

Jack Wall

Question:

342 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a submission (details supplied); the plans he has to address the issues raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14528/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 341 and 342 together.

I am having the submission in question examined in my Department, and will not comment until this examination has been undertaken.

Local Authority Charges